On a Debate With Wilson

Douglas Wilson has graciously offered to debate me publicly in an oral format. I thank him most kindly for the compliment that such an offer implies. I will be quite honest and frank: I don’t have the same rhetorical skills that Wilson has. I have been assiduously avoiding any kind of scathing remarks directed towards Wilson, because I really don’t want his atomic rhetoric directed my way (and, by the way, the reference to “atomic rhetoric” is not meant as a slam either; it is only an illustration of the power of rhetoric, especially Wilson’s). I’ve thrown a few “jabs” his way, and he to me. However, even he has admitted that these are “above the belt.” So far, it is an honest contest. I get caught up in the heat of a moment such as a debate would entail. It is not usually good for my sanctification. Here on the blogs, I have the luxury (and necessary help!) of my library. I admit it freely: I use my library as a crutch. So, in respectfully declining Wilson’s invitation, I am only acknowledging my own sinfulness and inadequacy that such a debate would inevitably augment.

I am grateful for the dialog/debate that Wilson and I have engaged in over the period of these last several months on our blogs, and I hope we can keep that going, even past my review of RINE. It seems to be fruitful (judging by comments from FV advocates and critics alike). Plus, I can control my own temperature much better. It does seem to be the only place left on the internet where FV advocate and critic can still interact, and I do not want to jeopardize that, which I feel an oral debate would do.

Speaking of jeopardizing debate, since lesser means have been inadequate to quell the caustic remarks of some, these four writers will be temporarily suspended from posting privileges, until they can show that their tone can be respectful of my wishes on this blog: RobertK, MarkT, Sean Gerety, and Stewart Quarles. They can try to comment, but their comments will be deleted. I am sorry to use this method, fellas. But you have to stay on topic, which is the original post. Currently, there will be a one week waiting period, after which they will be allowed back on condition of non-troll-like comments. If that can be shown, then they will be welcome back. I trust that these four writers will respect my wishes. Don’t make me erase all the comments you have ever posted on this blog, so that any new comments are caught in the moderator’s queue. I will do that, if you do not respect these commands. That will mean that you will never even have the opportunity to post again on this blog. This is my blog, and I have control over it. I have been lax up until now in the hopes that cool heads and clear thinking will prevail. That has not happened. If you want to rant, get your own blog/do it on your own blog.

Let me be clear. 1. This is not an utter, final suspension. 2. The tone of comments on my blog needs definite improvement, as many commenters have now noted. 3. The relative positions of these four writers are now well-known to all, and they are not typically adding new things to the discussion. 4. Their comments are having a tendency to discourage other commenters from writing. 5. The standard for comments is that it must be on topic, which is defined as being closely or directly related to the post itself. 6. The tone will be respectful of all other commenters, false teachers or not. This is not a church court. No name-calling will be allowed.

Let me say how disappointed I am in the turn this blog has taken in the comments. I do not like making rules up like this. I want this blog to be a scholarly interaction with ideas, not a slam attack on people. I am all for heat in a blog debate, as I have shown myself on many occasions. But it should be heat directed at a position, not at a person. We must distinguish (however slightly) between the person and the position. People can hold positions out of many reasons, not all of them bad motives. Good motives do not excuse bad theology. However, good motives can mean that someone with bad theology is not trying to be a snake. However improbable that might seem to some, that leeway is given by me to Wilson at the very least.

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177 Comments

  1. September 5, 2007 at 9:16 am

    God bless you, Rev. Keister. Your decision to decline oral debate with Pastor Wilson is both understandable and honorable. May the Good Lord be pleased to bless me with the same graciousness, moderation, humility, reverence for the truth, and great love of our Savior and our brothers in Christ – thus fulfilling (however imperfectly, this side of glory) the two greatest commandments – that you have consistently displayed and exemplified here.

    Indebtedly yours,
    –Eric

  2. Keith LaMothe said,

    September 5, 2007 at 9:17 am

    Thank you for your continuing interaction with Wilson (and discussion of the FV in general).

    I’m sorry to hear of your declining the debate, though I understand your reasons and would probably have to do the same thing if I were somehow in your position. Do you have any idea of anyone who might be able to take your place? I would really like to see a face-to-face debate of that sort, and I think it is reasonable to think there is at least one anti-FV champion capable of it. That’s not intended as a dare or anything like that, but I know y’all have plenty of smart guys ;)

    And thank you, however regrettable they may be, for your steps towards making the comments more civil. Over the past weeks I’ve felt an increasing desire to simply stop reading the reader comments, even thinking to jokingly ask for a display option on your blog to not display the comments link under each post. Hopefully this will move things in the right direction.

    God be with you,
    Keith

  3. greenbaggins said,

    September 5, 2007 at 9:24 am

    James White has debated Wilson before. The result was not to his satisfaction. James White is about as good a debater as it is possible to find. Chicken? Yeah, maybe. I know I’m chicken! :-) I won’t speak for the others. They all have their reasons for not debating Wilson.

  4. Anne said,

    September 5, 2007 at 9:36 am

    I don’t see what the point of a f2f debate is supposed to be, or how such a thing could possibly be of more value than a written debate or discussion. The latter is far more easily and readily disseminated, mulled over, and cited.

    F2F debates provide some sort of entertainment value, I daresay, but that’s about all they have going for them, so far’s I can see.

  5. September 5, 2007 at 9:40 am

    Rev. Lane,

    Thank you for providing a place for good honest debate and discussion. I want to say that if I have crossed the line with my rhetoric (and no doubt I have), I apologize and I will seek to be gracious and civil in the future. May God be glorified here as we debate and discuss these theological issues.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Terry W. West

  6. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 5, 2007 at 9:40 am

    Rev. Keister,

    Your declining this debate is wise and the reasons laudible. Contrary to what some seem to think, live debates simply *are not* the best way to get at the heart of issues. They make for good entertainment, and when the parties involved possess equal rhetorical skill, the outcome can at times be somewhat indicative of the actual state of things and the validity of the arguments made. But this is certainly not always the case, and the cons of such debates, in my opinion, outweigh the pros.

    With regard to the other issue: I do apologize for any part I may have played recently increasing the level of vitriol on your blog. In retrospect, I do regret the tone I took in my first interaction with Robert K., and I know that some remarks I’ve made in subsequent threads were ill-advised.

    Grace and peace to you,

    Jonathan

  7. Ken Christian said,

    September 5, 2007 at 10:24 am

    Lane,

    Cheers to you for the improvements you’re seeking to make to the discussions here. Though I know we don’t always agree, seeing you do things like this causes me to have great respect for you and your ministry. May God bless your efforts, brother.

    Ken

  8. Keith LaMothe said,

    September 5, 2007 at 10:25 am

    Face to face debates can have disadvantages, but one thing I feel is lacking in a written debate is the “just answer the question, please” factor. In some forms of debate (the written, for example), it is fairly easy to structure a reply that appears (even to the writer) to be a reasonably complete response but more or less completely fails to answer one or more very important questions posed by the opponent. This can continue through several iterations of back-and-forth, and the debate can conclude without it being much more than two people both talking about what they want to talk about and never really dealing with what the other person is saying. This can happen face to face as well, but a participant has more ability to call attention to a non-answer.

    For example, compare the recent written debate between Wilson and Cristopher Hitchens in Christianity Today with the face to face “Great Debate” between Greg Bahnsen and Gordon Stein in California some years ago (I hope you’ve all had the opportunity to hear that, it’s available from Covenant Media iirc). The former was very good in that it showed that Hitchens either had no answer to Wilson, didn’t realize he was being asked to give it, or didn’t feel like doing so. But the latter was nothing short of a dramatic public embarrasment of Steins atheist-materialist position. Stein couldn’t dodge the questions nearly as easily as Hitchens was able to do so.

    Of course, in this context, it isn’t that questions are being intentionally dodged out of malice or any ill motive, but it’s easy to get going on a reply based on a few things the opponent said and he has to wait quite a bit longer for the “turnaround” to re-pose the questions that weren’t addressed. And its much less apparent to the reader that a question is being dodged (however unintentionally).

    Just my 2 cents, I suppose.

  9. Keith LaMothe said,

    September 5, 2007 at 10:28 am

    To put it another way: why do we conduct trials with examination and cross-examination of witnesses in a face-to-face format? Why wouldn’t exchanging written correspondence suffice? It’s faster, sure, but is that the only reason?

  10. greenbaggins said,

    September 5, 2007 at 10:32 am

    I hear you Keith. And I don’t mean to imply that nothing good could possibly come out of a F2F debate. I just don’t think that I am the person to do that. I am much more comfortable with a written medium that gives me time to think of what I really want to say. I think I am clearer that way.

  11. Dave Rockwell said,

    September 5, 2007 at 10:51 am

    Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.
    Titus 2:6-7

    But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.
    Titus 3:9-10

    The way of a fool is right in his own eyes… Proverbs 12:15a

    It is honorable for a man to stop striving, since any fool can start a quarrel. Proverbs 20:3

  12. Keith LaMothe said,

    September 5, 2007 at 10:58 am

    Lane,

    I wasn’t questioning your reasons, just responding to some of others who were asking about whether there’s any point to having a face to debate at all.

    Keith

  13. greenbaggins said,

    September 5, 2007 at 10:58 am

    Ah, point cleared.

  14. Keith LaMothe said,

    September 5, 2007 at 11:00 am

    “face to face debate at all”, that should read. Clearly I shouldn’t be part of one since I can’t manage to proofread my written communication, and my verbal communication would be even less related to what I’m trying to say ;)

  15. September 5, 2007 at 11:02 am

    Lane, I agree with your decision to decline an oral debate with Pastor Wilson. I like being able to look at the words being said, rather than being influenced by the nuances and body launguage of a verbal debate. If such a debate were ever to occur, a level-headed moderator with a dictionary would be needed, or perhaps a pre-agreed-upon definition of select words.

    I also appreciate your desire to make this a more civil (Christian) place. When I commented at B&M, I was shocked at the name-calling in response. When I came here, I saw much of the same kind of name-calling, just (mostly) from the other side. I think we can discuss, and even disagree sharply without the vitriol.

    Blessings to You!

  16. September 5, 2007 at 11:24 am

    I learn a great deal here and it has really helped me keep my thoughts tempered on the FV issues. I generally don’t considered myself a reactionary person but sometimes I do out of ignorance. The kind of discussion that goes on here (less the ad hominem comments) is very good and I hope it continues. I appreciate the FV men who take the time to explain and clarify issues too. I hope you all continue.

  17. Andy Gilman said,

    September 5, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    In #8 Keith LaMothe said:

    [BOQ]
    For example, compare the recent written debate between Wilson and Cristopher Hitchens in Christianity Today with the face to face “Great Debate” between Greg Bahnsen and Gordon Stein in California some years ago.
    [EOQ]

    Do you know of anyone who witnessed this debate, who was a Stein supporter going into it, but a Bahnsen supporter after it? Or anyone who was on the fence prior to the debate, but who was won over by Bahnsen’s argument? If you know of someone in that category, do you think they would have been persuaded had it been Wilson (armed with Stein’s raw material and Wilson’s rhetorical skills) debating Bahnsen? Have you ever witnessed a debate where a Christian, armed with the truth, had his head handed to him by an atheist?

    In almost every case, debates in the Bahnsen/Stein format are merely an exercise in rhetoric and oratory, and depend more on good coaching and strategy than they do facts or ideas. The FV has already lost the real debate, the written debate, judging by the actions of most of the reformed world they sought to influence. The candidate “behind in the polls” always challenges the front-runner to a debate. It’s not a sign of strength, but of weakness.

  18. Keith LaMothe said,

    September 5, 2007 at 2:04 pm

    Andy,

    I do not have first hand knowledge of the impact on the audience of either the Wilson/Hitchens or the Bahnsen/Stein debate. Perhaps another reader has such knowledge and could let us know. Particularly, if David Bahnsen happens to be reading this I’d like to know what his father thought of the numerous face to face debates he took part in.

    For the record, I have been told that there were numerous conversions to Christianity after the Bahnsen/Stein debate, but I cannot validate that testimony.

    On the other hand, from a logical standpoint, Stein was forced into a position where he had to deform his position to fit the constraints that Bahnsen showed him he was operating under, and resulted in Stein making statements that were pretty obviously self-contradictory.

    I think one example in detail might help:
    1) Bahnsen had shown that Stein could not make absolute moral statements due to his lack of a locus of absolute moral authority
    2) Stein had resorted to saying that morality was a matter of what the conventions of the society around oneself would or would not approve of
    3) Stein was asked (by an audience member, iirc) if what Hitler and the Nazis did was wrong, and he replied that it was indeed wrong.
    4) Bahnsen asked Stein “why?”
    5) Stein replied that Hitler had no right to go against the moral conventions of the Western civilization he lived in.

    So by what standard could Stein say that Hitler had no such right?

    It was an obvious embarrassment to his position. He couldn’t help but make statements he couldn’t support, and indeed contradicted what he had said before. My guess is that he would have had a much easier time dodging Bahnsen’s questions in a written debate. Do you think differently on that?

    [BOQ]Do you think they would have been persuaded had it been Wilson (armed with Stein’s raw material and Wilson’s rhetorical skills) debating Bahnsen?[EOQ]

    Yes. I could be wrong, but my guess is that Bahnsen’s rhetorical skills at least match Wilson’s (he was very good), so I’m not sure the situation is what you were aiming for with that question.

    [BOQ]Have you ever witnessed a debate where a Christian, armed with the truth, had his head handed to him by an atheist?[EOQ]

    Yes. I’ve been the Christian in that position, actually.

    Is it possible that the ungodly prevails in a debate due to superior rhetorical skills? Yes, not ultimately (eschatalogically), but yes in the short term.

    Is it possible that God could have put a Goliath before David that would have outsmarted him and emerged victorious? Sure, but did He? And if He had, or done something similar, what message would we think He was trying to communicate to Israel?

  19. Andy Gilman said,

    September 5, 2007 at 4:10 pm

    [[BOQ]
    My guess is that he would have had a much easier time dodging Bahnsen’s questions in a written debate. Do you think differently on that?
    [EOQ]

    Yes, I disagree. It comes down to debate preparation and rhetoric. If you can anticipate the questions, you can prepare to dodge them. Maybe Stein did a poor job of anticipating the questions. Why do you think it is easier to dodge a written question? Was it clear to you that Hitchens was dodging Wilson’s questions in their written debate? Wilson pressed him on it about four different times. Did Hitchens successfully dodge the question, or did he just refuse to answer? There is no reason that can’t be done in a face to face debate, provided the person is clever enough and well enough prepared. I think Hitchens could have dodged the question just as easily face to face.

    If the essence of a good debate is to trip up the opponent by catching him off-guard, or by making him quickly draw conclusions about propositions he hadn’t previously given much thought, what does that really prove? That Bahnsen has a quicker wit and is more clever, or maybe better able to think on his feet than Stein? If Bahnsen had um’ed and ah’ed while advancing his arguments, would he have been persuasive? I don’t think so. Delivery, oratory, coaching and strategy, play a much bigger role in face to face debates, and generally reduces them to mere entertainment. They can’t resolve intellectual disputes.

  20. Matt Beatty said,

    September 5, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    There’s no question that each form of debate (oral vs. written) has limitations, but we’ve had quite a bit of the one without ANY of the other, so perhaps a little balance is warranted. Also – and perhaps this is just me – it makes me a little nervous to think that of the myriads of FV critics (and their name is Legion) out there, not a single one can summon the courage, will, whatever to open his mouth and debate Pastor Wilson. The apostolic injunction to confound the false teacher was very likely meant to be an ORAL encounter – face to face – for the very reasons that have been highlighted by some hear. Sure, written statements are nice and worthwhile for some things. What about the Philosophy prof at the local college who’s accusing your church of “intolerance” and “crimes against humanity?” Or the Roman Catholic priest who is teaching the flock that they’re not part of the true church? Imagine Paul at Mars Hill, “Sorry, can’t be bothered due to my opponents rhetorical abilities and skill. I’ll mail in a response to your questions later in the month.”

    Will no one step up to the plate simply because he’s skillful and smart? Without judging motives, this unwillingness to engage “the enemy” (clearly, the FV IS a moral enemy to many) appears to be a function of cowardice. Someone’s got to step up, right?

  21. greenbaggins said,

    September 5, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    Matt, you don’t think I’m stepping up to the plate with regards to the written debate we’ve been having? I am doing what I feel I am capable of doing. But beware of ascribing cowardice to others who refuse. That is precisely the kind of motive-reading that I don’t want any more of on this blog.

  22. Dave Rockwell said,

    September 5, 2007 at 5:05 pm

    #20
    Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.
    Matthew 7:6

  23. Keith LaMothe said,

    September 5, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    Lane,

    Certainly we should not motive-guess, we barely know our own hearts if even that. But I do think that false teaching on the order of what you and others have understood the FV to be warrants a public and vociferous confrontation. You and others have done a good job in following your conscience and providing that in some formats, but I must confess it seems somewhat conspicuous that no one is willing to meet Doug on this particular field of battle, as it were. If you (not speaking specifically to you, Lane) fight in the army of the Living God, against those who are defying Him, then come forth. And if those other guys are not defying God, what’s all this about again?

    But no, you’re definitely no coward, and I would not countenance your being called so. We each have our gifts and there were plenty of men in Saul’s army who were not at fault for not wishing to go toe-to-toe with Goliath in that particular mode of combat.

    I think perhaps Matt was speaking to the general-mishmash-of-FV-critics (TM). Still, it is best to be clear that motive-guessing is not occurring.

    Keith

  24. September 5, 2007 at 5:20 pm

    Lane, thanks for two things. First, thanks for policing the borders of civility — I appreciate it greatly. And thanks, secondly, for considering my offer of debate. If we cannot meet face to face, we can certainly continue to interact here, on my blog, with an occasional jaunt over to the Bayly brothers. God bless.

  25. greenbaggins said,

    September 5, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    DW, you’re entirely welcome on both counts. I think it could prove profitable for someone to debate you in person. I just saw on Canon Press’s website a discussion you had with Michael Horton. Was that profitable? Maybe that could happen again?

  26. Vern Crisler said,

    September 5, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    Hey Lane,

    I wish you would reconsider. After all, did not Paul have to confront Peter? That shows how easy it is for even the best to slide into conditionalist thinking.

    Hey, if even that politician who was caught in the bathroom can reconsider his decisions, then you can too — uh, bad analogy. BAD. Strike that.

    Seriously, I think all you would have to do, Lane, is preach the gospel. It’s what ministers should be doing every Sunday morning anyway.

    Vern

  27. Matt Beatty said,

    September 5, 2007 at 6:49 pm

    Lane,

    I think your attempts to take Wilson and the FV folks seriously is noteworthy, for sure. For the record, I qualified my assertion about “cowardice” by stating explicitly (see that 1) I wasn’t attempting to discern inward motives and 2) that the actions APPEARED to be cowardly. I don’t know you or any of the other anti-FV types to know if you are characterized by cowardice. As Keith rightly noted, I am wondering aloud how there can be all this “sturm und drang” from the FV critics and so little willingness to talk personally about it, in public, for all of the world to see. Yes, oral debate has its challenges, but so does all of this blogging. Perhaps the outcome will be the same… but give it a chance. If Wilson (and others) are what many say they are (including MANY, MANY shots taken on your blog, for which you bear responsibility), then doesn’t it seem wise to expose Wilson for the charlatan he is? If, on the other hand, Wilson really is a brother, perhaps in serious error, perhaps just error, and he asks for you to “straighten him out” – you may not WISH to do it, but don’t you believe someone has the obligation? Casting stones from the cheap seats without having to stand up, sans library, allowing for the give and take of clarifying questions, etc. appears – stress APPEARS – to be cowardly. I don’t know how else to say it. Especially, given your comments above concering Wilson’s intellectual and rhetorical gifts. Which, by the way, I share. He’s not one I’d like to meet in a dark classroom! :-)

    I sincerely apologize and seek your forgiveness if you or any other readers took me to be judging your (or others’) motives. I was not. Actions alone are in view.

  28. Dean said,

    September 5, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    Matt

    “If, on the other hand, Wilson really is a brother, perhaps in serious error, perhaps just error, and he asks for you to “straighten him out” – you may not WISH to do it, but don’t you believe someone has the obligation?”

    Corporate justification is _______?

    Please give a positive definition without a word about what it is not.

    Corporate justification includes which of the following? a.) forgiveness of sins b.) imputation of the active and passive obedience of Jesus Christ c.) change in legal status from “under condemnation” to “not under condemnation?

    “allowing for the give and take of clarifying questions, etc. appears – stress APPEARS – to be cowardly. Especially, given your comments above concerning Wilson’s intellectual and rhetorical gifts. Which, by the way, I share.”

    Considering Wilson’s intellectual gifts he should certainly be able to come up with an orthodox definition.

    How do you propose to have a debate without first defining terms, or are you simply “casting stones from the cheap seats”?

  29. Andrew Compton said,

    September 5, 2007 at 7:15 pm

    Lane, if this question takes things too far afield, let me know.

    Since the Bahnsen/Stein debate has been mentioned, I wonder if someone can offer me their opinion on how the transcendental argument (TAG) can be applied to other religions of the book. I’ve been struggling lately with whether or not the TAG can be applied to Judaism and to Islam. I once heard Bahnsen say in a round-table type discussion with a Rabbi and an Imam that they shared a common epistemological starting point in that they all placed authority in the same holy book (of course the Rabbi didn’t accept the NT and the Imam, by accepting the Quran, believes the Bible to be incredibly corrupt). Elsewhere I remember hearing Bahnsen say that when it comes to arguing with a Jew, the key is to show him or her that they are not interpreting the OT correctly by failing to see the messianic prophecies as fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

    Since I am now studying at a very liberal university for my doctorate in OT, I know that my professors have done a whole lot of reflection on such issues as the messianic prophecies and the non-divine nature of the OT scriptures. It isn’t likely that they’re going to be won over by exegetical arguments since they are exegeting the OT in the context of a worldview that is highly critical of confessional Christianity. What I’m wondering, however, is if the TAG can be applied to liberals who believe that the OT only has human authorship, and even to Jews to believe that the NT does not fulfill the OT.

    If a Jew denies the Triune nature of God, how can they account for the philosophical question of “the one and the many”? After all, since their worldview doesn’t presuppose the Triune God who archetypally embodies unity and diversity (one in essence, three in person), and has created this world which seems to reflect ectypally the coexistance of the one and the many, can they really provide the preconditions of intelligibility in any meaningful way? (I’m assuming here that the question of the one and the many is pretty important for anyone trying to do any sort of epistemology.)

    How about anyone who denies creation ex nihilo? (Translating Gen 1:1 as a dependent clause – “When God began to create the heaven and the earth . . .”) I’m thinking especially of liberals here. If one doesn’t believe that it was God who created the heavens and the earth, thus making creation independent from God in some way, how do they provide the preconditions for intelligibility?

    I guess to boil my question down, is it possible to argue transcendentally against certain interpretations of the Biblical text, simply because the worldview that they create cannot provide the preconditions of intelligibility? It seems to me that it *is* possible, but I’d appreciate the thoughts of any other VanTillians out there . . .

    Thanks folks. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

  30. Grover Gunn said,

    September 5, 2007 at 9:45 pm

    Here is a relevant statement:

    “But Scotus does recognize the existence of objections to Scripture from outside the church which strike at a deeper problem than the sufficiency in Scripture: pagans and heretics who, like Christians, recognize the ‘necessity of revealed doctrine,’ nevertheless deny the identity of Scripture with that doctrine. … In a fashion similar to that adopted by Calvin and by the later Protestant orthodox, Scotus sets forth a series of arguments demonstrating objectively the truth and, therefore, the sufficiency of the Scriptures.”

    Muller, Volume Two: Holy Scripture: The Cognitive Foundations of Theology, pp. 49-50:

    See also WCF, 1.4 & 5.

    In other words, we can stand upon Scripture as our ultimate foundation and also use reason in an ancillary role to argue for the unique sufficiency of Scripture, for the correct interpretation of Scripture, against false interpretations of Scripture and against the claims of false scriptures. The argument that Scripture is the sole adequate epistemological foundation for intelligibility is powerful, but there are other secondary arguments which are also useful. Go to http://grovergunn.net/andrew/mal0213s.htm and do a search on the word “solitary” and begin reading there. We should argue with a passion rooted in our sympathy with God’s desire for obedience to His revealed will and with a patience rooted in our confidence in God’s sovereign plan to accompany the outer call with the effectual call by which the Spirit, convincing the elect of their sin and misery, enlightening their minds in the knowledge of Christ and renewing their wills, persuades and enables them to embrace Jesus Christ freely offered to them in the gospel.

    May God bless!
    Grover Gunn

  31. September 5, 2007 at 10:10 pm

    Dean, corporate justification is God’s forensic declaration that the human race has been legally and covenantally reconstituted in Christ, the last Adam. The Church, as the bride of Christ, is the instantiation of that blessing in the world, for the world.

  32. Dave Rockwell said,

    September 5, 2007 at 11:49 pm

    According to the results of the PCA study committee report, the debate is over and the decision has been rendered by the GA. Federal Vision teaching has been found to be in error on nine counts. The advocates of this erroneous teaching lost their case in the PCA. Your job, Lane, as a PCA pastor is not to debate Wilson, but to follow through on the recommendations of the report – condemn this erroneous teaching and call on those who teach it in the PCA to repent and make known their errors. Wilson is not in the PCA and the Bible clearly directs us to stay away from- not debate – such divisive people.

    Wilson lost his place of influence in the PCA. Accepting or not accepting this loss is his problem – not yours.

  33. Dave Rockwell said,

    September 5, 2007 at 11:58 pm

    Remember, too, that Satan lost his place in heaven. And, what did he do in the Garden? He tried and succeeded in getting Eve to “debate” and question the truths of God. Don’t fall for this temptation too, guys.

  34. Vern Crisler said,

    September 6, 2007 at 1:22 am

    Come on Dave!

    James White debates heretics all the time, as well as those who advocate sub-Christian ideas (RC, FV, etc.). Does that mean he is furthering Satan’s work? Or is he providing a real service?

    Debate has always been an acceptable way to sort out issues of truth and falsehood. I understand that one would not want to give publicity to certain types of heresies (hyper-preterism for instance), wishing they would just go away. But FVists are not heretics or even sub-christian for the most part in their views. They are misguided at best, neo-remonstrants at worst, but the Presbyterian denominations just recently refrained from casting them out as heretics, despite criticizing the teachings as unacceptable.

    Debating Doug Wilson would be problematic, I’m sure. Probably only Lane can follow all the ups and downs, to’s and fro’s, and back and forths, of Doug’s FV views. It is like trying to follow out all of the lithologic and fossiliferous features of a local rock formation. (A small fee will be charged for that metaphor.)

    What I know at this point is that Doug in rejecting a major FV position, that the imputation of Christ’s righteousness is a result of covenant [i.e., church] membership, takes it all back in the next formulation. Imputation really is, after all, only for covenant members who have genuine faith. Covenant membership is, in Doug’s view, a condition for imputation. Presumably, when one is not a covenant member–e.g., through excommunication– one loses imputation, i.e., justification. Here is the relevant quote from Doug:

    “’The blessing of imputed righteousness is only for those covenant members who have genuine faith.’ Having such genuine faith is what we are commanded to have, and so when we do, we are being faithful. But you can mark it down as settled that Wilson believes, and has always believed throughout the course of this controversy, that true faith appropriates nothing other than the perfect obedience of Jesus on our behalf.'”

    “True faith appropriates” should be read in Doug’s view to mean “true faith of covenant members appropriates.” I.e., the condition of covenant membership must be met. But the gospel is that imputation is not based on anything man does, including being a covenant member. God justifies the ungodly, not the covenant member. Imputation RESULTS in covenant membership (cf., James); but the latter is not the condition for the former (cf., Paul).

    Can’t this be debated? At least it would give Doug another chance to reformulate his position. ;-)

    Vern

  35. Alynn Deatsch said,

    September 6, 2007 at 8:20 am

    Lane,

    I have so enjoyed this blog (what I actually have time to read, that is!) Your attention to keeping this debate clean is so refreshing. I am glad that you declined to debate Wilson. It was both honest and wise. You’re providing a wonderful service here.

    Your sister –

  36. Dean said,

    September 6, 2007 at 8:46 am

    Pastor Wilson

    Thank you very much for your comments. I really do appreciate it.

    “human race” – Does this include all the human race or the baptized human race or is it the baptized human race that have temporary faith? Or is temporary faith received as a part of baptism?

    Would you consider the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to be at all the grounds or cause of God’s forensic declaration? Or is the ground or cause of corporate justification merely in the water of baptism?

  37. Andy Gilman said,

    September 6, 2007 at 8:46 am

    In #31 Doug Wilson said:

    [BOQ]
    …corporate justification is God’s forensic declaration that the human race has been legally and covenantally reconstituted in Christ, the last Adam. The Church, as the bride of Christ, is the instantiation of that blessing in the world, for the world.
    [EOQ]

    I don’t understand how these two sentences fit together. In the first sentence, the human race is “legally and covenantally reconstituted in Christ,” and in the second sentence, the Church is said to be an instance or example of “that blessing in the world, for the world.”

    The first sentence indicates that the “human race” is “legally and covenantally reconstituted in Christ.” Is “legal and covenantal reconstitution in Christ” the same blessing the second sentence is talking about, when it ascribes it to the Church? If so, then why is it said to be given to the “human race” in the first sentence? In Doug’s view, is corporate justification a blessing enjoyed by the whole human race, or is it limited to the church? And what does it mean to be “legally and covenantally reconstituted in Christ?”

    I generally think of myself as possessing reasonably good reading comprehension, but I don’t get this.

  38. Keith LaMothe said,

    September 6, 2007 at 8:53 am

    (Lane, if this is too off-topic, just say so and I’ll stop)

    Andrew,

    At that particular debate in the audience QA session at the end Bahnsen was asked about all the other religions. He pointed out that something like Hiduism was irrational and contrary to our senses because it assumed everything was one and this kind of flies in the face of the obvious many-ness of reality (he put it better than that. He also pointed out that Islam teaches that Allah may abrogate any revelation he has previously given and replace it with something contradictory, therefore “p and not p” is a valid possibility and reason kinda goes out the window.

    Judaism would be something of a special case, and I think it is evident that their mis-interpretation of Jesus (among other things) results in contradictions of the OT. So they’re starting from the right place, but if one adds the proposition “Jesus was not the Christ, and not the Son of God” it leads to the conclusion that the OT scriptures are “broken”. I can discuss the intermediate steps of that argument if you wish.

    Keith

  39. Keith LaMothe said,

    September 6, 2007 at 9:23 am

    Lane,

    On the issue of civility in the comments, what do you think of having a policy of requesting each poster to provide you (privately) with their pastor’s contact information so that they can be held accountable for their comments if they get really out of line?

    Keith

  40. greenbaggins said,

    September 6, 2007 at 9:33 am

    Alynn, welcome to my blog commenting section, and thanks for your words of encouragement. They mean a lot to me. To those who haven’t met her, Alynn is my sister. She lives in Des Moines, is married to Tom Deatsch, has six wonderful children, and her blog is linked on my blogroll as Watching Daily.

    Keith, (#39) it’s not a bad idea, except that I simply haven’t got the time for it. I could maybe do that with people who are actually getting out of line. I could make it policy that I reserve the right to require someone’s pastor contact info. That might work. However, my post seems to have done the trick, at least for now. I am interested in reading all the comments once again. I hope the rest of you find it that way as well.

    Andrew and Keith, it seems like a very interesting topic to discuss. But for the life of me, I cannot see how it connects with the debate with Wilson post, or the other related discussions that have happened in the meantime.

    MattB, thanks for your clarification.

    Vern, I don’t see myself as being in a position at this time. Who knows, that may change. But I do not see myself as being in a position to do something right now.

  41. Keith LaMothe said,

    September 6, 2007 at 9:51 am

    Lane,

    Yea, the contact info thing would be a timesink for you; reserving the right to request it would probably work just as well. Hopefully that won’t be necessary, things seem to have calmed down.

    And I’ll hush on the off-topic stuff. Tangents are my middle name ;)

  42. Andrew Compton said,

    September 6, 2007 at 10:22 am

    Lane,

    I guess the whole debate thing that led into mentioning the Bahnsen/Stein debate caused me to wonder about this question.

    I’ll wait on this for another time and another place.

  43. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 6, 2007 at 11:11 am

    Dave Rockwell,

    I think you need to carefully consider the implications of what you have written above (#32).

    1. One would get the feeling from such a statement that what took place at the 2007 PCA GA was akin to what took place at Nicea in 325 AD, or at least just as authoritative.

    2. Your statement is a near denial of the WCF on the fallibility of councils. If a decision made for one small denomination in the U.S. in 2007 settles the issue for all time in the church and cuts off all conversation, then I daresay we are in a very sad state indeed.

    3. The PCA GA itself didn’t even make an official declaration, but rather merely recommended the report to the presbyteries of the denomination for consideration in ordaining ministers and in matters of discipline. To say that such an action ought to effectively cut off all conversation is simply ludicrous.

  44. Dave Rockwell said,

    September 6, 2007 at 11:53 am

    It seems to me that the PCA elders should meet their responsibilities in following up with the report’s recommendations rather than wasting valuable time debating the truth with a divisive man outside the denomination. And, it is my understanding that God’s infallible Word is not up for debate, but rather is to be obeyed out of love.

    Right now there are congregations who are sitting in pews Sunday after Sunday listening to the preaching of these errors. And, so far the leadership hasn’t succeeded in stopping those who preach these errors. Instead, they are being encouraged to debate these divisive men!

    Coming up with ways to hold bloggers accountable is commendable, but there are those of us who are very frustrated and angry that there seems to be no accountability on the part of the leadership in the PCA. Robert K may have come across as caustic and mean-spirited. His tone and attitude may have been wrong but his message is right. And his expression of anger and frustration is the same anger and frustration that a lot of PCA members feel right now. They feel that the leadership has failed them and they have lost confidance and trust in the elders. Now you guys think it would be fun to debate the very people who are destroying the PCA with their errors! What kind of message are you sending to your congregations? Is it any wonder that blood starts to boil on this blog?

  45. greenbaggins said,

    September 6, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    Dave, to reply needs almost an entirely separate post.

    First, the PCA has a case in the SJC right now concerning the Louisiana Presbytery’s handling of Steve Wilkins. I have it on good authority that the criteria for judgment in this case will be theological. The people who want all FV folk expelled (me included) should be patient with due process. This doesn’t happen overnight. It has only been 2 1/2 months since GA passed the study report, and many presbyteries haven’t even met yet. The wheels turn slower than you would like, that much seems evident. But I assure you that they are turning.

    Secondly, I did not ever use the term “fun” to describe a debate with Wilson. I said I thought it could be helpful for clarification.

    Thirdly, I am not willing to call Wilson a heretic in the sense of believing soul-damning doctrine. I am simply not convinced that he is a heretic in that sense. That doesn’t mean I would let him in my Presbytery. But then, I wouldn’t let a Baptist brother in my Presbytery either. Again, I don’t view Wilson as believing the same things as the other FV guys. There is differentiation that needs to be made here.

    Fourthly, debate is not necessarily mutually exclusive of judicial procedure.

    Fifthly, the recommendations are being followed up on in many presbyteries.

    You have to understand that the wheels turn slowly in a denomination that is 1. Presbyterian, and 2. this large. That has its disadvantages, in that people who might eventually be expelled are not expelled as quickly as they could be. However, it ensures fair play and a proper trial, which is all part of due process.

  46. September 6, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    test

  47. September 6, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    Sorry for the test, but I posted a comment earlier today that hasn’t showed. When I resubmit it wordpress says I have already said that.

  48. September 6, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    Lane,

    Sorry for the multiple submissions (if you are getting them on your end). I was trying to see if it was something I was doing wrong on my end.

  49. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 6, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    “Robert K may have come across as caustic and mean-spirited. His tone and attitude may have been wrong but his message is right. And his expression of anger and frustration is the same anger and frustration that a lot of PCA members feel right now.”

    There are many in the PCA also who think that a statement such as this is just as said a statement on the current state of the denomination than the existence of the FV ever could be. A willingness to go with Baptists over other Presbyterians is a sure sign that something is amiss.

    I appreciate Rev. Keister clarifying that he “wouldn’t let a Baptist in [his] Presbytery either” but the fact that so many Presbyterians are willing to embrace Baptists without a second thought while declaring folks who are at least trying to be faithful to the standards of their denomination to be “of a different spirit” is somewhat disconcerting.

    If we were in Geneva or any of the other sixteenth century Reformed strongholds, the Baptists would be exiled upon first glance. One could argue that the FV guys would have been sent packing as well (I don’t think so, at least with regard to the more conservative among them, but I don’t want to beg the question), but they’d at least receive a fair hearing on the basis of Scripture.

  50. September 6, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    Pastor Wilson and Andy Gilman,

    I attempted to comment on Pastor Wilson’s statement defining “corportate justification here, but for some reason WordPress is not letting it post. So, I posted it at my blog under this heading:

    My speculation on what is meant by “corporate justification”.

    I would be very interested in what you guys think. (especially what Pastor Wilson think about how close I came to understanding him).

    Blessings in Christ,
    Terry W. West

  51. Dean said,

    September 6, 2007 at 7:58 pm

    Terry

    I do not think Calvin’s quote taken in the context of his argument is what you are trying to make him say.

    Institutes – Book 3; Chapter 24 “Election is confirmed by God’s call; Moreover, the Wicked Bring Upon Themselves the Just Destruction To Which they are Destined” Part 8 “General and Special Calling”; Part 10 “The elect before their call. There is no ‘seed of election’.; Part 11 “Not growth from see but divine deliverance”; Part 12, “God’s administration of justice toward the reprobate”

    If your quote was found in this section it would be much more convincing. But in this section (Part 11) Calvin says, “What if we come to examples? What
    seed of righteousness was in Rahab the harlot before she had faith? In Manasses, when Jerusalem was stained and almost drenched with the blood of the prophets? In the thief, who only at his last breath thought of repentance? AWAY, THEN, WITH THESE ARGUMENTS WHICH INQUISITIVE MEN DREAM UP FOR THEMSELVES APART FROM SCRIPTURE! But let what Scripture holds remain with us: All like lost sheep have gone astray; every one has turned to his own way, that is, to perdition.”

  52. Kyle said,

    September 6, 2007 at 11:13 pm

    Jonathan, re: 49,

    A willingness to go with Baptists over other Presbyterians is a sure sign that something is amiss.

    I’ll go with the (Reformed) Baptists any day against the Presbyterians in the PCUSA. I assume you would as well. At least Baptists don’t seem to be messing around with soteriological categories in the way FV is. But you’re right, it is a sure sign something is amiss: Federal Vision isn’t as Presbyterian as its proponents claim. Maybe that’s why Presbyterians are going with Baptists?

    the fact that so many Presbyterians are willing to embrace Baptists without a second thought while declaring folks who are at least trying to be faithful to the standards of their denomination to be “of a different spirit” is somewhat disconcerting.

    Again, the Baptists aren’t the ones screwing around with soteriological categories. And I see no reason why a group among whom several are infamous for pushing paedocommunion, an anti-confessional practice, are really “trying to be faithful to the standards of their denomination.” Already the desire to admit non-professing children to the table reveals a different sacramentology than the self-same standards confess. In FV’s case, it has apparently all sorts of implications for ecclessiology and, the really big issue, soteriology. Is this merely a minor matter? (Not to mention, how many have issues with the Covenant of Works?)

    I do find it all terribly ironic that Pr. Wilson, the most notable persona in a non-denominational confederation of local churches with varying ecclessiologies, can accuse Presbyterians “in good standing” who have nary had a thought of doing away with paedobaptism, or requiring total immersion, or making local congregations autonomous, of having a “Baptistic” mindset. This doesn’t make our PCA FV proponents and sympathizers the least bit squeamish?

  53. September 6, 2007 at 11:14 pm

    Dean,

    For some reason I cannot post long comments here right now. So, I posted my reply to you over on my blog. If you are interested you can view it <a href=”http://reformedchristianmuse.reformedblogs.com/2007/09/06/christs-represenation-of-the-whole-human-race-in-his-substitutionary-death/”here

    I seem to be able to post these short comments. Rev. Lane, do you know what the problem may be?

    Blessings in Christ,
    Terry W. West

  54. September 6, 2007 at 11:16 pm

    The link:

    Here

    Sorry, I must have messed up the html on the link above

  55. Sean Mahaffey said,

    September 7, 2007 at 1:07 am

    Rev. Keister,

    Thank you for encouraging civility and Christian manners on your blog.

    On the debate with Wilson thing:

    I don’t think it is a problem that you don’t feel called to a public debate of this nature. Not all ministers are called to foreign missions or open-air preaching to hostile crowds or to teach seminary courses, etc. Paul and Apollos were eloquent men comfortable debating in the marketplace, the synagogues or the Areopagus. Few ministers today are gifted in the same way they were.

    Because of the nature of this disagreement, I am convinced that a written debate may be superior to a “think-fast-on-your-feet” verbal debate anyway.

    So, again I propose a blog debate. I think it would be very profitable for you and Wilson to exchange 1000 word posts with no comments from the peanut gallery. We must be able to touch the thing with a needle.

    Pick a point of dispute and work through it. Define terms. Discuss what is most assuredly believed among us, what are acceptable disagreements, what are out of Westminster bounds, and what are soul-damning heresies. Distinguish that which is the point from that which is not the point.

    Blessings,
    Mahaffey

  56. greenbaggins said,

    September 7, 2007 at 7:41 am

    Sean, I think that we are currently having a blog debate, don’t you think? I hope it extends beyond the review of RINE. At least, that’s what DW and I both think is happening right now.

  57. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 7, 2007 at 8:16 am

    Kyle,

    Thanks for the balanced and thoughtful response.

    “Federal Vision isn’t as Presbyterian as its proponents claim. Maybe that’s why Presbyterians are going with Baptists?”

    I hear what you are saying here, and respect your opinion. I think you’re probably right that FV “isn’t *as* Presbyterian” as its proponents sometimes claim: e.g., that they are somehow just contending for *the* traditional Reformed position.

    However, I am constrained to say that, in light of the historic tradition (which is–regardless of what RSC might want us to think–by no means monolithic, by the way), the FV has *much* more validity than any (yes–ANY) brand of Baptist theology around. This is just how I see it. But maybe it’s because I put more stock in the period from 1530 to 1720 than I do in the period from 1720 to 1900. Perhaps my “ad fontes” historgraphical approach is what is causing me to see validity in what the FV is saying.

    When the Reformed tradition is interpreted through the lens of later Puritanism and revivalism, then sure, the FV sounds a bit silly and the Baptists seem to have something of a point. But if I’m going back to Calvin, Bucer, Oecolampadius, Vermigli, Bullinger, Cranmer, Ames, Turretin, etc., then I don’t see how we can honestly look at the conditioning principles of the FV and the Baptists and have any hesitation as to who is closer to the historic tradition.

    Yes, the FV guys sound maddeningly confusing at times. But the fact remains that their “system” (if it can even be called that), if we honestly let their clarifications stand, is a development upon foundational Reformed principles which were laid in the earliest days of the tradition (and all this is assuming that I do read them correctly–I’m still open to correction here), while Baptist theology–esp. with regard to church and sacraments–is a severe deviation from the tradition.

    There is a reason why the Anabaptists were rejected as schismatic dissenters by the Reformers, and regardless of the progress our modern day Baptists may have made on the thought of their forefathers, they still share these things in common: 1. the church is composed only of adult professors, 2. infant Baptism is no true Baptism, 3. therefore rebaptism is right and necessary, and 4. the sacraments are merely signs and badges of profession. These were the main issues which our Reformers railed against with such vehemence. And these are the doctrines which still characterise Baptist thought in our day.

    And yes, the PCUSA, though claiming to be Prebyterian, is generally speaking very much deviant from the Reformed tradition… you got me there.

  58. Andy Gilman said,

    September 7, 2007 at 10:41 am

    In #57 Jonathan B. said: “Yes, the FV guys sound maddeningly confusing at times,” and “if we honestly let their clarifications stand…”

    The problem is that the FV all too often cannot, or will not, clarify what they mean. Their attempt at “clarification” simply leads to more questions and confusion. For example, can you tell me what Doug Wilson’s definition of “corporate justification,” given in #31 above, means? Obviously Doug is a busy guy, but if #31 is meant to be a “clarification” of his position, then it fails miserably, and is a good example of the “maddening confusion” you mention in your post.

  59. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 7, 2007 at 10:54 am

    Andy,

    I agree… they do play fast and loose with language and establised terms far too often. I am not trying to excuse them for this. It is theologically irresponsible. However, my question would be if this in itself is enough to declare their position heresy. I’ve tried to sift through the confusion and look at what they are really trying to say in light of the Reformed tradition as much as possible (I’m pretty busy with other things, so I confess that I haven’t had the time to read their writings as extensively as I’d like), and I can’t find *heretical* positions (and by heretical I mean substantial deviations from the Reformed tradition). Poorly worded? Yes. Confusing? Yes. Heretical? I don’t see it.

  60. Tony S said,

    September 7, 2007 at 10:55 am

    Andy, I found the comment to be very clarifying. You need to read up on objective justification/ subjective justification in Lutheran theology. Doug Wilson’s position is anologous to that.

  61. Andy Gilman said,

    September 7, 2007 at 11:17 am

    I see Tony, so Doug’s answer to Dean’s request for a definition of “corporate justification” should have been “read up on objective justification/ subjective justification in Lutheran theology.” Is that your position? Wouldn’t that make for a great face-to-face debate!

    Maybe you can answer my questions in #37.

  62. kjsulli said,

    September 7, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    Jonathan,

    With all due respect, what clarifications, exactly? I have yet to see FV in general clarify much of anything; three-quarters of the time the attempted clarifications I’ve seen are muddied by reaffirmation of the already confused language, although they have made it more than clear that no one but themselves and their sympathizers really understands FV. Almost as if they planned it that way. Frankly, I see far more in common between FV and NPP than I do between FV and Geneva, and I know that isn’t just me.

    And, after all, I think the main issue is soteriology. As confused as the Baptists may be, those in the tradition of the LBCF aren’t making mincemeat out of the ordo, they aren’t denying or minimizing the imputation of Christ’s active obedience, nor are they making works a constitutive element of saving faith. Yet these things are all being done in the FV camp, whether they really mean it or are unintentionally confusing the language.

  63. kjsulli said,

    September 7, 2007 at 2:51 pm

    I might add, for what it’s worth, that in my experience I have encountered FVers who thought Presbyterians should think of themselves as being closer to Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy than to Baptistry. Frankly, I can’t see how Baptists, at least those of the “Reformed” stripe, should be considered worse than Rome or Constantinople.

  64. Sean Mahaffey said,

    September 7, 2007 at 8:32 pm

    Lane,
    I think that this forum is more of a broad-ranging discussion than a debate. It has been the most helpful in clarifying the positions when you have given specific criticisms of Wilson’s writings and he has responded with a lengthy post on his own blog. I am recommending something more of that nature.
    Often there are 100+ comments after your posts (and Wilson’s on his blog), so any further interaction between the two of you is lost in the din.

    Blessings,
    Mahaffey

  65. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 8, 2007 at 9:01 am

    kjsulli,

    With regard to the clarification issue: I think we’ll just have to go our separate ways here for now. I don’t have much time on my hands to discuss this topic, much less do I have the least bit of desire to scour the writings of the FV guys for the proper clarifications. I just know that I’ve heard clarifications, such as on the issue of justification, which I have found satisfactory (even if perhaps still somewhat confused). I don’t hear them to be saying that we are “saved by works,” but rather that we are saved by faith alone, but that the faith that saves is a faith which “works through love.” If I am right in my reading of them, I don’t see how this is a deviation from the substance of historic Reformed teaching or from Holy Scripture. You may not be satisfied with this answer, and you apparently aren’t satisfied with the clarifications that have been offered, but I don’t have the time or energy to try to convince you otherwise. The idea that saving faith necessarily produces good works is simply historic Reformed doctrine. This is one of the issues that have long separated Lutheran and Reformed Christians. You can choose to go with the Lutherans here if you want, but please do not take *Lutheran* doctrine and make it essential to the *Reformed* tradition.

    As for Rome v. Baptists: Me personally; I’d put them in the same camp (though for quite opposite reasons, of course), and therefore I’d argue that both Rome and “Bapistry” are just as errant. Rome equates Christ and the Gospel with the Church. Baptists separate Christ and the Gospel from the Church. The biblical and Reformed view, however, is that Christ, the Gospel, and the Church are to be distinguished, but not separated, just as are sign and reality in the sacraments. The Church is the external minister which holds forth Christ the Lord: the inward minister who *ordinarily* works by his Spirit *in and through* the Church by way of Word and Sacrament.

    Too, both sides (two extreme ends of the spectrum) are caught in the snare of serious doctrinal and practical error. Rome is caught in the snare of idolatry, while Baptists are caught in the snair of schism. Both, in my view, are just as horrific and just as damaging to the body of Christ. This gets down to fundamental ecclesiological presuppositions, so we’d probably have to discuss first principles before coming to any agreement here, I’m sure. But suffice it to say that when a group of Christians denies that there is “one baptism for the remission of sins,” thereby effectively unbaptizing the vast majority of Christendom throughout history and in our own day, I take this as a severe deviation from historic Christian orthodoxy. Rome has her deviations and corruptions too, of course (and quite horrific deviations, I might add), but as I’ve said before in a different venue, asking me to choose between the two is like asking if I want lima beans or brussel sprouts with my supper. There is really no right answer.

  66. Kyle said,

    September 8, 2007 at 8:54 pm

    Jonathan,

    If I am right in my reading of them, I don’t see how this is a deviation from the substance of historic Reformed teaching or from Holy Scripture. You may not be satisfied with this answer, and you apparently aren’t satisfied with the clarifications that have been offered, but I don’t have the time or energy to try to convince you otherwise. The idea that saving faith necessarily produces good works is simply historic Reformed doctrine. This is one of the issues that have long separated Lutheran and Reformed Christians. You can choose to go with the Lutherans here if you want, but please do not take *Lutheran* doctrine and make it essential to the *Reformed* tradition.

    Am I going with the “Lutheran” doctrine? Now I know you probably don’t have the time to follow every discussion that goes on here, but I’ve been involved in several where this very issue has come up. And when I have pointed out that FV proponents or sympathizers are making works a constitutive element of faith–that is, something more than accompaniment–not a one has offered a satisfactory clarification. Not a single one. They are skittish about the standard Reformed interpretation of “justification” in James, and while on the one hand some will assert that works are not part of our justification, on the other hand the same folks will assert that works are part of the faith which justifies. It is simply not the case, in Reformed theology or in the Bible, that works are a constituent of faith. Fiducia does not, as Doug Wilson sees it, incorporate obedience. Faith is saving/justifying/alive, not because it has works, but because it rests on Christ alone. The works demonstrate that the faith is alive. It seems whenever they are told that faith ALONE justifies, they can’t help but answer, “Yes, BUT . . .” It is one thing to answer this way to an antinomian, but is this the way to answer a Reformed Christian?

    I’d argue that both Rome and “Bapistry” are just as errant.

    Either I haven’t seen enough of the Baptists, or else you haven’t seen enough of Rome. I agree the Baptists are wrong, but they are not guilty of damnable heresy. The Church of Rome, that great harlot, not only sanctions but encourages outright idolatry and preaches a gospel which damns the soul of any man who believes it. Rome is FAR worse than the Baptists; the Pope is an antichrist, C.H. Spurgeon is not. (All this said with the assumption that we are speaking of what might be termed “Reformed” Baptists.)

  67. GLW Johnson said,

    September 9, 2007 at 6:53 am

    Jonathan B.
    I think that in many ways, you have a very good grasp of the problems created by the FV and I salute you for having a keen eye-but I have one caveat. If ,as you admit ,the FV crowd keeps tripping over their tongues every time they open their mouths to give futher ‘clarification’ ( not only do the their critics have a difficult time understanding them, but according to DW, his former student who recently announced that he made his way back home to Rome via the FV, he really never understood what DW was saying either!) the result being only more confusion-at what point does culpability for such confusion result in sowing error and leading people astray? The import of James 3:1 seems to suggest that confusion and error are not seperated. I have heard the defenders of T.D. Jakes claim that his anti-trinitarinism is simply the result of a misunderstanding on the part of his critics and that the lack of theological sophistification on his part is the only thing he is guilty of and as such he is really not a heretic.

  68. Anne said,

    September 9, 2007 at 7:39 am

    The presence of “confusion rampant” regarding the FV is why new theological theories ought not to be disseminated to the people in the pew until they’ve been tested and approved by denominational authorities.

    Tell you what, were I to give a class on microwave cooking and half of the students, upon following my directions, somehow managed to set their microwaves on fire, undoubtedly I’d be told there’s a problem with my instructions. Even though 50% of the class did not set their microwaves on fire, the fact remains that when that many people misunderstand what I said, the problem lies with what I said, not the people.

    Heck, even if a quarter of the class set their microwaves ablaze, that’d indicate the existence of a problem. Really, a tenth would do so. Who would want to sit under a teacher who taught so poorly that one in ten students misunderstood the lesson?

    After all these years, the FV’s “y’all have misunderstood us” routine has worn thin.

    Too many people’s theological microwaves are blazing away. Get a clue, folks.

  69. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 9, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    Kyle,

    Thanks for the good reply. I hear what you’re saying and understand the frustration you’re voicing. I think in many ways I just need to continue mulling over the issues. I see validity in some of the FV criticisms of others as well as in the criticisms which have been made against them. But thanks… your first paragraph concerning justification is helpful for me in trying to understand where you’re coming from.

    I have to just disagree on the “Romanists are worse than Baptists” issue. I understand the corruption of Rome and agree that Roman doctrine leads men astray. But I believe Baptist doctrine, with its rampant subjectivism and individualism has done just as much damage in our day. Of course, this is not popular at all amongst evenagelicals in America. But to say that Rome was the seat of anti-christian deception wasn’t very popular in Italy in the sixteenth century either.

    The Reformers viewed both the authoritarianism of Rome and the sectarianism of the Re-baptizers to be just as damnable. I don’t want to be quite as harsh on either side as they were, because both of these groups have changed dramatically, but I do agree with them wholeheartedly concerning the inherent corruption of both groups (the one in equating the catholic church with itself and the other in attempting to do away with the catholic church). Just because it is more popular in our day to align ourselves with the one over the other does not convince me that the “popular choice” is necessarily any better.

    And I was a Baptist for quite a while, so I’ve seen it quite a bit. I’m convinced that the revivalism and separatism involved in Baptist doctrine has deceived a good many souls. Also, I have grandparents who have been blinded to the grace of Christ by the deceitfulness of Marian devotion, so I know a little about the practical consequences of Romanism, too.

  70. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 9, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    Rev. Johnson,

    You do have a good point. As I told Kyle above, I think my best bet for now is to just continue listening, asking, and praying. And I am thankful that sites like this exist, where clarification actually does take place.

    Thanks,

    Jonathan

  71. Kyle said,

    September 9, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    Jonathan,

    Can we clarify the term “Baptist”? I’m not sure I’m using the term as broadly as you are; in this discussion I have, I think, always included the caveat that I’m talking particularly of what might be called “Reformed” Baptists; and I say they are better than Rome, not because it’s “more popular” to side with them, but because they do have the saving Gospel. If we are talking about all Baptists generally, my estimation changes rather dramatically.

  72. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 10, 2007 at 7:57 am

    Kyle,

    This may be cause for some confusion. When I speak of a “Baptist” tradition, I am speaking broadly of a basic doctrinal paradigm which reduces Christianity to a personal thing–a matter of merely personal salvation which ordinarily happens apart from any material means (i.e. the ministry of the Church in Word and Sacrament); says that one only becomes a member of the church because one has been saved outside of her rather than being saved by God through her (which is the historic Reformed position); therefore reduces the church to a mere collection of like-minded individuals, the sacraments to mere memorials of what is absent and badges of profession rather than sacred signs of what is present and actual means of grace; and thinks it is ok to break away from the rest of Christendom by claiming that they alone possess true Christian Baptism and therefore think it permissible, good, and necessary to re-baptize anyone not baptized in an “age of accountability.” This is what I mean by the term “Baptist.”

    Baptists, as I understand them (and yes, I think it applies to all varieties, even the “Reformed” stripe) therefore cannot rightfully confess the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. And this is a very serious issue, in my opinion. Sure, they can say the words “catholic church,” “communion of saints,” and “one baptism for the remission of sins,” but what they mean by these terms is manifestly different than what the faith of the church which framed these Creeds understood by them.

    Thus, the Baptistic system is an uncatholic and heterodox position, in my opinion. Sure, there are better and worse forms of it, but in the end the basic underlying presuppositions remain the same. And I’m sorry, but much as I love and want to be united with my Reformed Baptist brothers, I simply cannot be: no more so than I could with Rome. Speaking of a “Reformed Baptist” position makes no more sense to me than if we were to speak of a “Reformed Arminian” tradition. Thinking that predestination is cool and an affinity for talk about covenants is simply not enough to make one Reformed.

    Again, as I said at the outset of our exchange, this discussion really comes down to first principles. If you view soteriology and ecclesiology as two completely separate departments of theology, then it is quite possible to abstract the Gospel and say that one can have an unorthodox ecclesiology and sacramentology and yet retain a pure Gospel. But in my thinking, soteriology and ecclesiology are organically connected. We must distinguish between them, of course, but we cannot separate them. (And, just for the record, I am just as convinced that Rome’s perverted Gospel is inwardly connected to her perverted ecclesiology as well. As I said before, where Rome equates the church and Christ, Baptists separate them. Both positions are just as errant and just as grave.)

    Thus, a corruption and material deviation in the one will always result in a corruption and material deviation in the other.

    Calvin saw this, and he accordingly declared:

    “But because it is now our intention to discuss the VISIBLE Church [emph. mine], let us learn even from the simple term ‘mother’ how useful, indeed how necessary it is that we should know her. For there is no other way to enter into life unless this mother conceive us in her womb, give us birth, nourish us at her breast, and lastly, unless she keep us under her care and guidance until, putting off mortal flesh, we become like the angels. Our weakness does not allow us to be dismissed from her school until we have been pupils all our lives. Furthermore, away from her bosom one cannot hope for any forgiveness of sins or any salvation.” (Inst. 4.1.4.)

    And it is apparent in Calvin’s writings against the Anabaptists that he viewed them as having placed themselves outside of her fold. The main issue for him was the practice of Re-baptism, which our modern baptists, both those who wrongfully claim the title “Reformed” as well as those who detest it, have in common with the sixteenth century Anabaptists. No matter how lowdly they may want to protest that they are not of the same mind with their forefathers here, they cannot get away from this underlying issue: they have taken Baptism away from the church catholic and presumed the right to claim it for themselves. The is a material deviation from both Reformed and historic Christian orthodoxy.

    You may say that Baptists possess a “saving Gospel.” I do not deny that God saves men through what they preach (I am witness that he does!), just as I do not deny that God may save men through the corrupted Gospel which the Romanists preach. But the Gospel they possess is not the Gospel that the Reformed Churches have historically recognized as acceptable or orthodox, because the Reformed churches from earliest days were not wont to separate Gospel and Church or Christ and Church as we–due to the influence specifically of baptistic revivalism–are in ours.

    Hopefully that will help you understand better where I’m coming from. I don’t trust many here will agree with me. That’s fine. But if I’m going to be serious about my claim to be Reformed, I want to follow the tradition I am claiming. And this is where my study of it has lead me.

  73. September 10, 2007 at 7:55 pm

    […] article was originally a comment in the context of this thread at Greenbaggins.  © 2004-2007 Eric F. Langborgh […]

  74. Kyle said,

    September 10, 2007 at 10:33 pm

    Jonathan,

    What do you think of Congregationalists and “Reformed” Episcopalians?

    I agree that “Reformed” Baptists (perhaps “Particular” or “Regular” would be more felicitous terms) have a corrupt ecclesiology, yet I think the reason is precisely because of their separation of ecclesiology from soteriology, rather than from a defective soteriology per se. That is, they inconsistently apply the Gospel. Whereas Rome’s ecclesiology is corrupt because she consistently applies a false gospel. These are very different orders of error, if we agree with Luther that justification is the articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae.

    I don’t think it is historically accurate to treat Baptists as if they were simply the heirs of Anabaptism. The Baptists developed separately in England in the early 17th century, whereas Anabaptism had already been around on the Continent for quite some time. Now, the General Baptists certainly came under the direct influence of Anabaptism while in Holland, but the Regular Baptists seem to have developed parallel to and rather separate from the General Baptists in England. Our modern-day Baptists as a result have mixed origins and a mixed history. But I can say, I think, that revivalism is neither distinctly Baptist nor Baptist in origin. Revivalism, in English-speaking nations, has its origins in the First Great Awakening, a partly Calvinistic and (thanks largely to the Wesleys) partly Arminian movement. Revivalism devolved through the course of the 19th century, largely due to Wesleyanism, IMO.

    Finally, I do not suggest or begin to suggest that we should unite ecclesiastically with “Reformed” Baptists. (Although Doug “I ain’t no Babdist” Wilson has come the closest to doing so in the CREC.) But I do consider them brethren, unlike the Church of Rome.

  75. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 11, 2007 at 7:32 am

    Kyle,

    When I speak of ecclesiology here I’m not talking about polity at all. I’m talking about the essence, or being, of the church. What *is* the church? What does the church *do*? These are foudnational and essential questions. Polity is merely secondary. Everything I say above has to do with the being of the church, not polity.

    Again, the fundamental problem with both Rome and Baptists is that they err precisely on this question: What is the relationship between Christ, the Gospel, and the Church? Rome equates them; Baptists separate them. Polity has nothing to do with this. One can be an Episcopalian, a Congregationalist, or a Presbyterian and still not run into either of these extremes.

    And I was not speaking of historical “roots” either (I’m quite familiar with the history that you have provided). I’m talking about an overal doctrinal paradigm, as I stated at the outset of my comments above. I don’t care if modern day Baptists can trace their roots back to Calvin himself: as soon as they begin rebaptizing people, they demonstrate their utter apostasy from the Calvinistic, and yes, the historic catholic tradition. To say that just because Reformed Baptists can trace their lineage to Puritanism holds no more validity to me than the Roman claim of apostolic succession. I am not, and never have been, talking about a historical succession, but rather a doctrinal and ideological succession. After all, for Protestants, this is the only sort of succession that really matters.

    Anabaptists were called Anabaptists precisely because they re-baptized. This is the fundamental issue, and it always has been. In this regard, modern day Baptists, Reformed or otherwise, are no different than the Anabaptists. They may be kinder, gentler, and more orthodox in other ways. They may even sometimes talk nice about Calvin and Luther. But in the end, they have denied the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, and the one baptism which the church through history–Reformers included–has always recognized as an unrepeatable rite for the remission of sins (whatever one understands by its relation to this remission being secondary, of course).

    And I too consider faithful Baptists separated brethren, just as I consider faithful Romanists to be. Both, however, are ensnared in sectarianism and heretical teachings.

  76. GLW Johnson said,

    September 11, 2007 at 7:49 am

    Jonathan B.
    Oh my, that last statement of yours is guaranteed to do more than raise a few eyebrows. You do know that the CREC allows/permits churches that have the Second London to serve as their confessional identity to be members? I ,as a old school Presbyterian,have as much trouble with your ‘hyper’ Reformed distinctions as I do with Calvinistic Baptists like Mark Devers and Albert Molher ,who recently publically took a stance on not allowing fellow colleagues in arms,like RC Sproul or Sinclair Ferguson, to come to the Lord’s table unless they have submitted to ‘believers baptism’. I emphatically do not consider, however, my differences with my Baptist brethen to be even remotely on the same level as those errors espoused officically by Rome.

  77. kjulli said,

    September 11, 2007 at 7:54 am

    Jonathan,

    Ecclesiology is not nor has ever been as fundamental an issue as the Gospel. It is extremely important, but in the final valuation, the Gospel is primary. The Gospel has all sorts of implications for our doctrine of the Church, and the Baptists fail in this respect. Nevertheless, the Gospel is primary. Do you agree or not? This is the mistake FV has been accused of, that is, emphasizing ecclesiology at the expense of soteriology, even, in some cases, of going so far as to be making the error of Rome in identifying the two.

    I’m not arguing that mere historical succession validates Baptists. I’m arguing that the possession of the true Gospel, in spite of a corrupt ecclesiology, validates Baptists over against Rome and other so-called churches with false Gospels. The only reason this is possible is precisely because the Baptists separate ecclesiology from soteriology rather than equate them as does Rome. As I said above, they do not consistently apply the true Gospel, where Rome consistently applies a false gospel. This is why I can consider Baptists brethren, but cannot consider Romanists brethren at all-especially not “faithful” Romanists, who, if they are actually faithful to the teachings of the Roman Magisterium, are twice over sons of hell.

    Perhaps it will be best for me to leave it at this for now.

  78. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 11, 2007 at 8:05 am

    Rev. Johnson,

    Yes, I knew that about the CREC. But as I’m neither a member of that denomination nor a slavish follower of Rev. Wilson, it doesn’t phase me much.

    Just to be clear on one thing though, believing that “believer’s baptism” is good and that it is expedient to wait is wholly different than rebaptizing. I could be united with folks who simply choose not to baptize their children because of their own convictions. I cannot, however, abide the heresy of rebaptism.

    And, so we’re clear, what about my “Reformed distinctions” would you consider “hyper?”

  79. September 11, 2007 at 8:14 am

    […] Eric’s blog is here. For some context, my comments were couched in the midst of the thread of this post, where the question was asked, “which is worse, Romanism or Bapistry?” My answer is […]

  80. GLW Johnson said,

    September 11, 2007 at 8:16 am

    JB
    Yes, and so, I believe would my dear friend John Owen who, as you may know, had a poor ‘Baptist’ tinker as a dear friend and went out of his way to get his publisher to publish John Bunyan’s work.

  81. Sam Steinmann said,

    September 11, 2007 at 8:22 am

    Jonathan,

    “One baptism for the remission of sins” is not incompatible with re-“baptizing” those who were never baptized rightly. You, I’m fairly sure, would baptize a Mormon; a good portion of the PCA would baptize a Catholic.

    The Anabaptist argument was that right baptism requires prior repentance, and confessionally, baptism joins one to the church in the Anabaptist tradition. Denying that infant baptisms are valid does not deny “one baptism”, any more than denying that the Roman Church is the Bride of Christ denies “one holy catholic church.” I think you are mixing up modern revivalist/pietist Baptist practice (mostly developed by Protestants–Finney, Wesley, Moody) and later adopted by Baptists, with Anabaptism, which was and is very church-centered.

    Concerning baptism we confess that penitent believers… must, upon such Scriptural confession of faith, and renewing of life, be baptized with water, in the most worthy name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost…and thus be incorporated into the communion of the saints (Dordrecht article 7)

  82. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 11, 2007 at 8:29 am

    Rev. Johnson,

    I understand that. I’m not saying I hate Baptists. I’m not saying I don’t love Baptists. I haven’t even said that I do’t consider Baptists my brethren. In fact, I stated just the opposite. The question was not, however, “do you like Baptists and want to be united with them” but “do you think Romanists are worse than Baptists?” This is the only question I have been seeking to answer. I know what Owen’s answer would have been. I know the answer Kyle, you, and others would give. That is fine with me. However, I’d ask that you recognize what I stated above that my thinking is much more connected to the categories of Calvin, Bucer, Bullinger, Vermigli, et al. than it is to the Puritans. Rebaptism, again, is the issue, and my Reformed Fathers considered it a pernicious heresy, just as they considered idolatry, papal tyranny, and the sacrifice of the mass.

    Again, I would like to know exactly what of my beliefs you consider “hyper Reformed distinctions.” Is it just because I’m not a neo-Puritan that I have earned this label?

  83. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 11, 2007 at 8:32 am

    Sam,

    I understand that quite well. However, the question is not “can baptists say they believe in one Baptism,” but “can baptists recite the Creed according to the meaning given it by the Church which framed it.” Words without meaning are empty.

    Rebaptizing those baptized by the catholic church *is* a denial of the “one baptism” as the Creed means it. No one in the early church would have ever, ever, even come anywhere near dreaming of rebaptizing anyone the church had already baptized.

  84. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 11, 2007 at 8:35 am

    “a good portion of the PCA would baptize a Catholic.”

    Is this really true? I haven’t met anyone in the PCA who would. Maybe I just don’t know my own denomination.

  85. Sam Steinmann said,

    September 11, 2007 at 8:40 am

    Is this really true? I haven’t met anyone in the PCA who would. Maybe I just don’t know my own denomination.

    It was seriously debated at my old church whether or not we would accept a Catholic baptism; acording to the elder I asked, the PCA leaves that decision up to the individual sessions.

  86. September 11, 2007 at 8:47 am

    To build on brother Jonathan’s comments in #81 – not only is the practice of re-baptizing a denial of the “one baptism” we confess in the creed, but more to the point, the baptistic refusal to recognize the baptism of Christians who received the rite in their early youth as such is most fundamentally a denial of that “one baptism.” And their denial (John Piper notwithstanding) of Table fellowship of those “only” baptized in their early youth (whom they would say have not in fact been baptized) is a clear denial of the catholic faith and is inherently schismatic. Mark Dever and Al Mohler are simply being consistent with the logical consequences of their beliefs.

    And I say this as one who has many dear Baptist brothers and as one who loves dearly Mark Dever – who was my pastor for five wonderful years at CHBC.

    Concerning the charge that many PCAers would re-baptize a convert from Rome, this is also news to me. The fact that the PCA recognizes as valid all Trinitarian baptisms is one of the things I so love about our denomination. In this regard we are much more catholic in practice than most of the rest of the Christian denominations.

  87. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 11, 2007 at 8:52 am

    I want to reitterate and be clear on one thing, because I think the ethos of what I am saying here has been misunderstood by Rev. Johnson, and therefore most likely by many others. I have many close friends who are Baptists. I love them. I pray for them. I have cordial relationships and brotherly discourse and debate with them on a regular basis. I have worshipped in their churches, been to their weddings, and grieved with them over their losses. Nothing I have said here has been meant to insult Baptists, but to simply be honest about what I see as a heretical ideological tendency that conditions the practice of re-Baptism.

    Accordingly, if one goes back to the beginning of this discussion to see the context, the question posed to me was never one of “what do you think of Baptists” but “who do you consider worse, Romanists or Baptists?” To this my answer was and is, “the question provides me with faulty alternatives.” Both Rome and Baptists are in error, and yet I love and consider my brethren both faithful Romanists and faithful Baptists alike, even though I consider them to be ensnared in heretical teachings.

  88. greenbaggins said,

    September 11, 2007 at 8:57 am

    Jonathan, are you saying that because certain theologians would not re-baptize a Roman Catholic, that therefore their view of Roman Catholicism is that it is part of the true church? It seems to me that you are going from the former to the latter.

  89. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 11, 2007 at 9:03 am

    Rev. Keister,

    No. I am not answering for others, only myself. The Reformers viewed both the church of Rome *and* those groups who practiced rebaptism to no be true churches. I would go the opposite route, claiming that both are ensnared in heretical teachings and practices and yet retain a status as component parts of the universal church.

  90. GLW Johnson said,

    September 11, 2007 at 9:26 am

    JB
    As Kyle and Sam have pointed out, I too think you are confusing catagories here. Calvin , in particular, was not dealing with the same kind of ‘Baptists’ like a John Bunyan or a Charles Spurgeon. There is an enormous difference ,for example, between a Second London Reformed Baptist and a Missionary Baptist or even your typical Southern Baptist like the late Jerry Falwell.

  91. September 11, 2007 at 9:36 am

    Rev. Johnson,

    I think Jonathan has recognized that fact many times now. His point is that regardless of their stripe, all Baptists are inherently anti-creedal and non-catholic, as the logical and definitional consequences of their beliefs concerning the rite of Baptism. If the question is what type of Baptist is the worst (or best), I think that Jonathan would join me in saying that the ABC is in much greater and serious error than most of the SBC, which is not nearly as good as the Founders Conference churches in the SBC, such as Dever’s CHBC. Similarly, Fr. Richard Neuhaus is not nearly so bad (and indeed has much to say that is edifying) as some of the liberation theologians in South American Roman Catholic churches.

  92. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 11, 2007 at 9:38 am

    Rev. Johnson,

    I believe I have been careful enough in my writing on this thread to avoid such a charge. I have continually qualified my statements by recognizing the differences between our modern day baptists and the sixteenth century Anabaptists, while stating that, notwithstanding, the underlying ideology which conditions the practice of rebaptism remains essentially unaltered. Once again, rebaptism was for the Reformers, and is for me, the main issue. If you could demonstrate otherwise, I’m glad to hear you out.

  93. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 11, 2007 at 9:40 am

    Eric,

    Thanks for offering those clarifying remarks. You read me rightly.

    Off to class… :-)

  94. GLW Johnson said,

    September 11, 2007 at 9:46 am

    Eric
    There is a major issue here- Baptists like the ones I cited are ‘Protestants’ with whole-hearted agreement with ALL the Reformation’s ‘SOLAS’- and stand as such on the side of the Reformers-Richard John Neuhaus, despite the wide gap that seperates him from others in the RC church, is still in Calvin’s eyes a ‘Papist’.

  95. September 11, 2007 at 10:01 am

    Rev. Johnson,

    I agree with you – to a point. I think there is much more to being Reformed than simply affirming TULIP, or even the solas. Esp. when you consider the sola Scriptura has an ecclesiological context, as Keith Matheson has ably shown. This is not to say that Scripture isn’t the final and ultimately authoritative norm – I wholeheartedly affirm that. But it is to say that scripture is to be approached via the regula fide (per Irenaeus), which has its more full expression in the Catholic Creeds. As Jonathan has shown, Baptists, regardless of stripe, cannot affirm the same Creeds we do, definitionally, even if they use the same words. And the importance of approaching and interpreting Scripture in community, as Christ’s Body, is lost on Baptists. This get to the heart of what the church is. Baptists are hence left with abstract propositions and a radical individualism (never manifesting itself in any authoritative way beyond the level of the local church), which is obviously a serious insufficiency given the incarnational nature of our Risen Lord.

    I will concede, though, that *I* believe it is worse over all to go to Rome that to go “Reformed” Baptist. Their errors are both serious, but Rome has errors upon errors that add up to something much worse. But would I consider worse than an Arminian Baptist church? I don’t think so. I believe a devout “Papist” can very well have more going for him than too many of our more radical Protestant brothers.

  96. September 11, 2007 at 10:05 am

    BTW, I most certinaly do not mean “…more going for him …” in the sense of meritorious points toward salvation. I mean it in terms of a helpful environment towards sanctification, and in terms of less significant roadblocks in the way of obtaininig a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus.

  97. greenbaggins said,

    September 11, 2007 at 11:14 am

    Baptists were originally creedal, Eric. The London Baptist Confession is the Westminster Confession minus infant baptism and church polity. Not only that, they affirm the ancient creeds as well. It is vitally important to remember that Baptist heritage springs from the Reformed tradition, and not in any way from the Anabaptist tradition. Baptist church polity comes from John Owen and Thomas Goodwin, not from Menno Simons. Their heritage is with us. The Roman Catholic Church comes from Trent. Now, which is closer to the Reformed tradition, the London Baptist Confession, or the Council of Trent?

  98. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 11, 2007 at 11:29 am

    Rev. Keister,

    I respectfully disagree. The Baptistic system, no matter what accidental features it may espouse, is not a legitimate development upon the Reformed tradition, but a corruption and material deviation from it. And re-baptizers are not “creedal”, i.e. they are not with the spirit of the Creeds, They deny the creedal meaning of “Holy Catholic Church” and “one baptism.” Just because one can say the words of the creed does not make one “creedal” any more than saying “I believe in the Bible alone” and quoting its words means that one’s teachings are biblical.

  99. September 11, 2007 at 11:31 am

    That’s not my (nor Jonathan’s point, Rev. Keister. As he said way up in 372:

    Baptists, as I understand them (and yes, I think it applies to all varieties, even the “Reformed” stripe) therefore cannot rightfully confess the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. And this is a very serious issue, in my opinion. Sure, they can say the words “catholic church,” “communion of saints,” and “one baptism for the remission of sins,” but what they mean by these terms is manifestly different than what the faith of the church which framed these Creeds understood by them.

    That’s our point. I understand quite well the history of Baptists, esp. since I was a “Reformed” Baptist for five years before joining the PCA. As I said in this post of mine, we often recited the Apostles or Nicene Creeds during worship, but – as Jonathan points out – we could not really mean what the authors of those creeds meant concerning the phrases he points out.

    IOW, I consider baptists my brothers in Christ, and they are winning many to the Lord. But I side with Jonathan in saying that it is wrong to hermetically seal soteriology and ecclesiology into two completely separate departments of theology, just as Rome is wrong to equate them. But they are inseparably related, as Calvin shows. Therefore, even the “Reformed” Baptists are seriously deficient in their soteriology, no matter how heartily they affirm TULIP and nod agreement to the Five Solas.

  100. September 11, 2007 at 11:33 am

    Excuse me – that should be “…way up in #72.”

  101. greenbaggins said,

    September 11, 2007 at 11:34 am

    “Not a legitimate development upon the Reformed tradition???” So the Baptist churches in the CREC are not legitimate churches? You are going to throw out Spurgeon as illegitimately setting forth his theology?

    Are you seriously going to tell me that Roman Catholic theology is more orthodox than Baptist theology?

    However we may disagree with Baptists on their sacramentology, they still preach the Gospel. I defy anyone to say that Dever, Spurgeon, Justin Taylor, and Al Mohler are preaching heresy in the sense of soul-condemning doctrine. Contrast the Roman Catholic Church, which has justification wrong, and you know what the Reformation would have said about that.

  102. greenbaggins said,

    September 11, 2007 at 11:37 am

    Eric, I think I understood the point just fine.

    The problem here is that your position and Jonathan’s requires way too much connection between soteriology and ecclesiology. It is leading you to ignore the fact that the RCC denies justification by faith alone, where Baptists (the majority of them, anyway) do not.

  103. September 11, 2007 at 11:37 am

    Rev. Keister,

    No one here is saying that.

    Plus, in regard to the CREC accepting Baptist churches, I don’t see a problem in being more catholic than a consistent Baptist would be.

    Respectfully,
    –Eric

  104. greenbaggins said,

    September 11, 2007 at 11:42 am

    I guess I am objecting to this rather strong language: “corruption and material deviation from it,” regarding the Reformed tradition. I think the authors/pastors I mentioned would take rather strong exception to it, as would I.

  105. September 11, 2007 at 11:46 am

    Re: #102 – I most certainly do NOT ignore Rome’s grievous error there.

    Question: Do you agree with Calvin’s quote in #72?

    Because to say that those justified by faith alone are to repent and to be baptized and are to be joined to the visible church (and not just local, but historical, as well), and are to partake of the Lord’s Supper as an infant suckles its mother, and to stay under her care is NOT to say that any of those things are the GROUND of our salvation. To affirm, as a consequence that there is no *ordinary* salvation outside the visible church is not to say that submitting to the church is the ground of our salvation. But it is inseparable from justification – as its consequent (not cause).

    Baptists effectually sever the relation. Rome equates it. They espouse opposite errors in this regard.

  106. greenbaggins said,

    September 11, 2007 at 11:54 am

    But the sign and seal is not the substance of the Gospel itself, which is justification by faith alone. We accept Baptist baptisms as valid, do we not? So even their view of baptism does not mean a complete corruption and material deviation from the Reformed tradition. I’ll agree all you want to that we cannot worship in the same denomination. And I agree with the Calvin quotation. But that still does not mean that the Baptists are materially deviant. The problem here is that the definition of Baptist is too broad. I consider Baptist theology to be the London Baptist Confession theology, not what Jonathan describes it as. I see the SBC, for one, going in a much more LBC direction.

    The Baptists and the RCC may espouse opposite errors in that regard, but that does not make the Baptist error of nearly the same consequence as the RCC error.

  107. September 11, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    Why is the Gospel (only) equal to sola fide? The Gospel to me is the whole story, which includes being made into a new creation, and THAT includes becoming a part of Christ’s body and boride, His church.

    For instance, when the Gospel is mentioned in Mt. 24 and 26, it is being equated with the whole of the narrative that came before it. In Mark 1, its citation is as “the beginning of the Gospel, which includes the whole story that comes after. The point is that the Gospel is not a single proposition, but Story. That Story is centered around the hope we have in Christ, but that presupposes our Fall, the unveiling of Redemptive History through the Jews and out to the Gentiles, and culminates in what our new life looks like and the final Return of the King at the end of the ages.

    And yes, we accept Baptist baptisms, as we said. And Roman and all other Trinitarian baptisms, as well. (And, for the record, and a grateful for the clear moves of the SBC in the LBC direction.)

  108. September 11, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    *I* am grateful…

    Sorry for my plethora of typos…

  109. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 11, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    Rev. Keister,

    You are severely misreading me in so many ways I don’t have the time to fully address them all, but I’ll try. First, never did I say tha”Roman Catholic theology is more orthodox than Baptist theology.” Never did I say that “Baptists are materially deviant.” I said two things only, and have been clarifying them so much that it’s beginning to be a tad irksome: 1. The question “which is worse, Rome or Baptists” provides faulty alternatives, since both are just as errant, though in opposite directions, in my opinion. 2. Baptist doctrine is not a valid development upon Reformed doctrine.

    Disagree with me, fine. But please, do me at least the courtesy of reading what I’m saying carefully enough to adequately address my points. I don’t know how much more I can clarify what I’m saying before this entire conversation goes down in the books as hopeless. Please reread what I have written. And if you don’t want to, at least reread comment #87.

    I fear that the only reason you and others are getting so worked up here is because you consider Romanists your enemies. But please try to bear in mind that I do not, and so to say Baptists are no better than Romanists is not to insult them or degrade them.

    And as far as your understanding of the Gospel and its relation to this discussion, please see comments #65, 69, and 72. We are working from a completely different set of first principles. If you are ready to discuss these, I’d be happy to oblige. But for me, saying that “they reject the creedal definition of the church and baptism, but have an orthodox Gospel” is fundamentally flawed, because the Gospel mustn’t be abstracted from the Church and the sacraments. So, it’s just not good enough to say that if someone is preaching JBFA they are preaching the apostolic Gospel. And it wouldn’t have been for the Reformers, either.

    Off to my next class… :-)

  110. GLW Johnson said,

    September 11, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    JB
    I hope this class you are off to is on the theology of the Reformers! I do think, as they did, that the gospel according to the RC church is another gospel and as such ‘Romanists’ are enemies of the Gospel.

  111. September 11, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    Jonathan,

    To be fair to Rev. Keister, I believe he got the “materially deviant” from this section of your post #72:

    As I said before, where Rome equates the church and Christ, Baptists separate them. Both positions are just as errant and just as grave.)

    Thus, a corruption and material deviation in the one will always result in a corruption and material deviation in the other.

    I’m not nearly knowledgeable enough to advance the conversation, but perhaps you could unpack that some, because to me your main point was pretty clear and unobjectionable, but others might not be coming from the same presuppositions that you and I are.

  112. Sam Steinmann said,

    September 11, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    Jonathan B,

    I still think you are wrong.

    Here’s the problem.

    All of us–you, me, Lane, the Pope–all of us agree that there are conditions that must be met for a “application-of-water-to-someone” to be a valid Baptism. We are arguing over what the conditions are. Contenders include Trinitarian in understanding, Trinitarian in articulation, by a valid Church, upon confession of faith, non-coerced, by immersion, etc. Arguing for (or against) one or another condition isn’t disagreeing with “one baptism for the remission of sins” in any sense that makes sense. All of us will “rebaptize” someone if, and only if, we believe that they haven’t been baptized.

    The part that frustrates me is that the Anabaptist faiths (Amish/Mennonite) put MORE emphasis on the church than anyone else. As my wife said the other day, “Excommunication matters here in a way that is Medieval Catholic.”

  113. Lee said,

    September 11, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    Lane,
    You said in comment #97 that the Baptist tradition springs from Reformed Heritage. Now the Reformed Tradition usually marks the True Church by three things: Discipline, Correct Gospel, and Right Administration of the Sacraments. Now according to this formula, does the Reformed tradition consider the Baptist church a true church?

    I admit I am late coming to this discussion, but I am interested in everyone’s answers. Perhaps phrasing the question this way will help focus debate. I look forward to responses.

  114. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 11, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    Rev. Johnson,

    As a leader in Christ’s church, why do you see fit to write sacrastically and condescendingly toward one who is trying his best to advance in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ?

    And I’m still waiting for your explanation of the “hyper-Reformed” charge.

  115. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 11, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    Sam,

    So the Donatists were not denying catholic doctrine either, I suppose. Not to equate Baptists with the Donatists, because the issues are different, but by your reasoning the Donatists were orthodox, because they could say the same creed, but only meant different things by the words.

    Man… Augustine sure got that debate wrong.

  116. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 11, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    Eric,

    I know what statement Rev. Keister had in mind, but saying that one’s ideology is a material deviation from another ideology is wholly different from claiming that a group of people as a whole are “materially deviant.”

    Baptists are still Christians. I haven’t denied this.

  117. September 11, 2007 at 3:06 pm

    I know, brother! In fact, you’ve said it loud and clear many times.

    FWIW to anyone interested on what the debate is about, Jonathan’s posts #65, 69, and 72 make his position quite clear, imo.

  118. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 11, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    Friends and brothers,

    I just wrote the following at Reformedcatholicism.com, and it seemed appropriate to offer it here in order to further clarify my thinking on this issue:

    “It seems that some may have been offended by my thinking on this issue, so I want to be clear on one thing: I love my Baptist brothers. I believe them to be gravely mistaken on a number of very important points which strike at the heart of what I consider to be catholic and apostolic Christianity, but this does not keep me from embracing them as brothers in Christ and seeking to be united with them as much as humanly possible this side of heaven. I think the same of those faithful brethren in the Roman fold, even in the midst of my serious objections to their doctrine and practice and what I see as a serious deviation from the Gospel of the grace of God. I count neither Roman nor Baptist Christians my enemies, so saying that neither is a more desireable option for me than the other (were I to not be historically Reformed) is not, in my thinking, an insult to either side.

    “The negative context in which this question was initially addressed in the comment thread at Green Baggins may be cause for unfortunate confusion as to the ethos of what I was trying to say, and so to state my opinion more positively: I believe that *both* faithful Baptists *and* faithful Romanists are my brothers, and therefore, I see neither side as being any worse than the other, just as I see neither as any better. I see both groups (of course, while recognizing many differences among particular individuals who are within either communion) as residing at two opposite ends of the ideological spectrum of historic Christianity, but nevertheless as component parts of the visible church of Jesus Christ, apart from which there is no ordinary hope of salvation. I have severe disagreements with both sides, but since my view of Christianity is not reducable to mere propositions, I can express brotherly affection toward those with whom I drastically differ in propositional matters.
    In this regard, I stated thus in a comment in the thread which is linked to above:

    “”I want to reitterate and be clear on one thing, because I think the ethos of what I am saying here has been misunderstood by Rev. Johnson, and therefore most likely by many others. I have many close friends who are Baptists. I love them. I pray for them. I have cordial relationships and brotherly discourse and debate with them on a regular basis. I have worshipped in their churches, been to their weddings, and grieved with them over their losses. Nothing I have said here has been meant to insult Baptists, but to simply be honest about what I see as a heretical ideological tendency that conditions the practice of re-Baptism.”

    “And to clarify yet again: when I say “heretical ideological tendency” here I’m not trying to anathematize people. I’m talking about an ideological tendency which I view as being opposed to the spirit of the Creed. This is all. So please, don’t go saying to people “Bonomo hates Baptists,” because it simply is not true, and to say that I have written anything which would imply such would be slander. Rather, if you have a bone to pick with me on this, you can tell people, “That lowsy Bonomo loves Romanists as much as he loves Baptists, and thinks he is just as far from (and close to!) the one side as he is the other.” I know people will probably hate me for this too, but it would at least be an accurate portrayal of what I am actually trying to say. After all, I’ve come to grips with the fact that I will most likely be hated by folks no matter what, so I would like to at least be hated for reasons that at least approximate what I actually believe.”

  119. tim prussic said,

    September 11, 2007 at 11:21 pm

    So, like, why you gotta hate baptists, J-Bo?

  120. GLW Johnson said,

    September 12, 2007 at 6:41 am

    JB
    My remarks were not written in the way you described-but that is how you read them. There is a difference. I was ,however,suggesting that your reading of the Reformers was somewhat deficient in light of your claim that the Reformers would view present day ‘Reformed’ Baptists through the same grid they did the Anabaptists of their day-and that the Reformers viewed the issue of rebaptism as serious an error as the errors of Rome on justification,the nature of the sacraments, Bibilical authority, etc. That simply will not hold water and I am surprised that someone who claims to be conversant with the writings of Calvin would advance such a notion. I have read Calvin’s treatises against the AnaBaptists and the Libertines-but have you read his extended analysis of the Council of Trent? The Anabaptists that he describes bear no resemblance to present day ‘Reformed’ Baptists-but his critique of the Council of Trent is as relevent today as it was when it wrote it.

  121. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 12, 2007 at 7:30 am

    Rev. Johnson,

    I think both groups have changed drastically, and no, I don’t think that if Calvin were around today his primary targets would be Rome or Baptists, but rather the rampant secularism, individualism, rationalism, and liberalism which has infected the church of our day.

    And, I tried as hard as I could in my comments to clarify that I was not saying Anabaptists and modern Baptists are *the same*. I was simply saying that the underlying ecclesiological and sacramental first principles remain untouched, and that it was these principles which were the main issues for Calvin and the other magisterial Reformers.

    And yes, I have read Calvin on Trent. Just because I admire Calvin’s teaching and follow him in most areas doesn’t necessitate that I make his animosity towards the Rome of his day my own towards the Rome of our day. My desire is to take the thought of my forefathers and appropriate it in the best way I can to our current cultural situation, not to slavishly follow them in a sort of dream-like repristination of the sixteenth century.

  122. GLW Johnson said,

    September 12, 2007 at 7:59 am

    JB
    Not me, I am all for slavishly following Calvin, the Westminster divines and especially BB Warfield right down the line.

  123. Bryan Cross said,

    September 12, 2007 at 8:22 am

    Kyle,

    Re #77, precisely which teachings of the Roman Magisterium make me “twice over” a “son of hell”?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  124. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 12, 2007 at 8:29 am

    Rev. Johnson,

    I do not fault you for it. It is a safe place to be. The basic difference between you and I (at least as I see it) is that I would see things as having dramatically changed since the sixteenth century (at least regarding Rome) and you would not. I hold no ill will towards anyone who wants to follow Calvin, Westminster, and the Princeton luminaries in every particular.

    I myself do not seek to deviate from Calvin or Westminster (much as I love and appreciate Old Princeton, I still see flaws, and therefore cannot go with them in certain areas), but rather to recognize the state of my own cultural situation and appropriate the tradition accordingly.

  125. GLW Johnson said,

    September 12, 2007 at 8:36 am

    JB
    I need a picture of one of those smilin’ face with tongue in cheek to stick up at the end of a sentence-someone get a hold of Frank Turk to help me out. I am a computer novice.

  126. greenbaggins said,

    September 12, 2007 at 9:23 am

    JB, I am not misunderstanding you, as you seem to think. Your position: Rome and Baptists err in equally opposite directions on the Sacraments. Correct, yes? It was the implications of that statement that I am (and was) trying to tease out. One of those is that you seem to have broadened your estimation to include other doctrines. This is because you link JBFA much more closely with baptism than I would (though I believe firmly that it is linked in the sense of sign and thing signified). Your position seems to imply that you think the Baptists and the Roman Catholics are pretty much in the same boat with regard to number and severity of errors (though they err in opposite directions). I simply cannot fathom why any Protestant would ever come to such a conclusion. To say that sacramental differences are on the same level as justification by faith alone (which the Baptists have right and the Romans don’t) is stunning to me.

  127. September 12, 2007 at 10:27 am

    Over at my Borg Blog, Jonathan and are having a good conversation about this issue with Dr. Carl Freeman, a baptist from Duke Divinity School, here:
    http://eric.langborgh.com/?p=786.

    Perhaps my latest comment there will further clarify what I believe Jonathan is saying (And if I fail at that and only succeed in further muddling things, my heartfelt apoligies, brother Jonathan!):

    Dr. Freeman,

    …In regard to your conversation, I do want to challenge you just a bit, though. In regard to what Jonathan (and I) sees as important first principles, I do think that Jonathan has been quite specific. Namely, all Baptists do in fact hold to the necessity of “re-baptism” for those who were “only” sprinkled/dunked/immersed/whatever as infants or too-young children. All Baptists – of all stripes – hold such to be merely a “wet dedication.” Baptism – to all Baptists – can only occur definitionally when an individual verbally and (usually) “credibly” professes the faith at the administration of the rite. Therefore, infant baptisms are illegitimate and those who received such must be “re-baptiszed” before admittence into the church and to the Lord’s Table.

    As Jonathan has explained, this has ramifications concerning the Creed: even if we say the same words, we mean different things in professing “one baptism.” And it has ramifications towards our ecclesiology – since only those baptized according to the Baptist definition are to be admitted into the church and ultimately to the Lord’s Table. Again, this means we are professing something different when we say the words “one holy catholic and apostolic church” in the Creed. And to Calvin and the magisterial Reformers, this compromises the Gospel in the opposite way that Rome has in its insistence on so equating its church structure to Christ himself. Baptists, effectively, separate what can not be separated (though not equated).

    This is Jonathan’s point, and with respect, you haven’t engaged it yet.

    IOW, in one sense you are correct: conversion on this point by Baptists *is* necessary for true catholic unity between paedos and credos. And, conversion by Roman Catholics on their opposite error is necessary for true catholic unity to ever be considered between Rome and the Reformers. (I happen to think there are other currently insurmountable roadblocks on top of this concerning Rome, and fewer depending on the variety of Baptist; Jonathan and I might disagree at this point).

    So, taking all of our comments together – both here and at the Greenbaggins thread, we both say this concerning our Baptist brothers – and you: you are our brothers in Christ, we love you as such, we will gladly worship and extend the hand of fellowship to you, you are welcome to the Lord’s Table at our churches, we will pray with and for you, knowing we are worshipping the same God and stand before Him by virtue of His Son, Jesus Christ, adding nothing whatsoever of our own merit. We long for greater unity with you and think greater ecumenicalism in the meantime is great.

    But catholic unity is impossible as long as the necessity of “re-baptism” is held by Baptists, as it is by all. Holding to credobaptism-only as the preferred practice is not the problem that divides us in the catholic sense. But refusing to recognize as valid the baptisms of my children and millions of Christians now and down through the ages is an insurmountable obstacle, save your conversion on this issue. I don’t say that with any animosity or belligerance intended, but merely as a point of unfortunate fact.

    Yours in Christ,

    –Eric

  128. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 12, 2007 at 10:59 am

    Rev. Keister,

    No, I’m not talking about “number of errors.” I’m talking about basic ideological trajectory which pushes outward away from historic Christian orthoxy into opposite extremes. Depending on one’s own perspective, one will therefore see varrying degrees of corruption and different numbers of errors on either side. But the outward forms that these errors take, in my opinion, are merely secondary to the underlying doctrinal presuppositions. I have for convenience generalized the tendencies as I see them thus: Roman equation of the Gospel and the Church, Baptist separation of the Gospel from the Church. To the degree in which one is given over into either of these extremes, one has moved away from the Biblical, orthodox, and historically Protestant center.

    This is my only contention.

  129. Sam Steinmann said,

    September 12, 2007 at 11:00 am

    [Setting conditions on what counts as baptism] has ramifications concerning the Creed: even if we say the same words, we mean different things in professing “one baptism.” And it has ramifications towards our ecclesiology – since only those baptized according to the [our] definition are to be admitted into the church and ultimately to the Lord’s Table.

    Eric,

    I’ve bracketed my changes. Note that the exact same problem exists between a Reformed church that recognizes Catholic baptism and one that doesn’t; between a Roman church that requires apostolic succession for its baptisms and a Reformed church.

    This isn’t a Baptist vs Reformed problem. Your understanding of what “one baptism for the remission of sins” means leads you to a nonsensical conclusion–that only if you agree with some particular church on “what is baptism” do you truly believe in “one Baptism.”

  130. September 12, 2007 at 11:00 am

    […] 12th, 2007 at 11:00 am (Uncategorized) The week has passed. The four authors mentioned are again allowed to comment, on these two conditions: 1. […]

  131. greenbaggins said,

    September 12, 2007 at 11:04 am

    Jonathan, even a basic ideological trajectory will carry with it a certain number of errors if the trajectory itself is in error, will it not? Therefore, it is a false dichotomy to say that you are not talking about severity of errors when you are talking about trajectory.

  132. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 12, 2007 at 11:08 am

    I didn’t say I wasn’t talking about “severity” but about “number.” The severity of abstracting and separating Christ and the Gospel from the historic church is just as severe as equating them.

  133. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 12, 2007 at 11:11 am

    Sam,

    “Your understanding of what “one baptism for the remission of sins” means leads you to a nonsensical conclusion–that only if you agree with some particular church on “what is baptism” do you truly believe in “one Baptism.””

    No. Only if you believe what the church that framed that Creed meant by “one Baptism” do you believe what the Creed means by “one Baptistm.” Baptism is an unrepeatable rite applied to the sinner by the visible church for the forgiveness of sins. To relegate this Baptism as invalid and therefore apply another is therefore to deny that there is “one baptism for the remission of sins,” *as it was meant by the Church which framed the Creed.*

  134. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    September 12, 2007 at 11:13 am

    I really must move on to other things now. This conversation has been exhausted, in my opinion. I can’t spend any more time with it.

    Thanks for the cordial interaction, everyone.

  135. kjulli said,

    September 12, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    Bryan, re: 123,

    Rome’s false teachings on justification, the communion of saints, the Mass, the nature and authority of the papal see, Mariology, Sacred Tradition, Scripture, etc. I feel no need to illumine the specifics much further. See the past 500 years of Protestant-Roman Catholic interaction.

  136. tim prussic said,

    September 12, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    kjsulli, doth Bryan Cross follow the Roman Magisterium as slavishly as Pastor Johnson does Calvin, the Westminster divines, and the Princeton boyz?

  137. greenbaggins said,

    September 12, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    Tim, see comment number 125. Gary was kidding, folks!

  138. Kyle said,

    September 12, 2007 at 5:39 pm

    Tim, re: 136,

    Why turn yourself into a troll with throwaway comments like this?

    Bryan included himself in the group that I said “faithfully follow the teachings of the Roman Magisterium.” You’ll need to take it up with him if you think he deviates from Rome’s teachings. I will take him on his word for the moment that he does not; I have not had the impression that he is particularly dishonest.

    As for Pr. Johnson, his comment was rather obviously a sarcastic remark, aimed at the (I think probably unconscious) implication of Jonathan’s comment.

  139. tim prussic said,

    September 12, 2007 at 7:02 pm

    Pastor Lane, *in low tones* i got the joke, but don’t tell nobody!!

    Kyle, I dunno what a troll is, but I went ahead and checked my belly button for a jewel.. only lint. Lighten up, buddy, life goes a bit easier.

  140. Kyle said,

    September 12, 2007 at 7:16 pm

    Way-ell, I weren’t sweatin’ on account o’ yer comment, Timmo. I jus’ don’ see what’s s’posed t’be so funny ’bout it. You’s right, though, I could stand to lose a few pounds.

  141. Bryan Cross said,

    September 13, 2007 at 12:20 am

    Kyle,

    I try my best to “faithfully follow the teachings of the Roman Magisterium”.

    But I was hoping for some more specificity regarding which Catholic teachings make me “twice over” a “son of hell”. If a person believes that Mary, the Mother of God, was assumed into heaven, does that make him a “son of hell”? Where does it say that in the Bible? If a person believes in making the sign of the cross, does that make him a “son of hell”? If he believes that Peter and Peter’s episcopal successors were given the “keys of the kingdom of heaven”, does that make him a “son of hell”? If a person believes that not all of the Apostles’ teaching was written down, but that some was passed down orally, does that make him a “son of hell”? How so? If a person believes that the saints in heaven can hear our prayer requests, how does make him a “son of hell”? Exactly and precisely which Catholic teaching(s) make me a “son of hell”, and why?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  142. kjulli said,

    September 13, 2007 at 7:38 am

    Bryan, re: 141,

    Where does it say that in the Bible?

    A question you should ask yourself concerning all the unbiblical doctrines promulgated by the Roman Magisterium. There was a reason for the Reformation. The Church of Rome is a false church, a harlot with a poisonous tongue. I have neither the time nor the inclination to satisfy your request; as I said before, you can look back over the past 500 years of Protestant-Catholic interaction. You are not invincibly ignorant.

  143. Bryan Cross said,

    September 13, 2007 at 8:53 am

    Kyle,

    If by “unbiblical” you mean contrary to the Bible, none of the Catholic Church’s teachings seem “unbiblical” to me. I myself do not find sola scriptura anywhere in Scripture. So if by “unbiblical” you mean “not taught in Scripture”, then sola scriptura seems to me to be “unbiblical”. I am familiar with the Protestant-Catholic interaction. But I have never found any good argument showing that Catholics (as such) are “sons of hell”. The Catholics I know are people who deeply love Jesus. I don’t understand why you think that God would cast people who so deeply love Him into hell forever.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  144. Stewart said,

    September 13, 2007 at 9:04 am

    Bryan,

    I’m not trying to play a gotcha game here. I tend to agree with your overall point. But according to catholic doctrine, isn’t Martin Luther is in Hell? Was he not excommunicated by Leo X? Didn’t he love Jesus?

  145. September 13, 2007 at 9:15 am

    Bryan,

    One difference b/t pop Roman Catholic practice and the Reformation is that the former believes (whatever way you want to mix it up with other things) that we get to heaven based on how much *we* love God. The latter understand that we get to heaven based on who much *God* loves us. And He loves us b/c He loves us, period.

    That said, I also believe that there are myriads of RCers who will be rejoicing with me in heaven, b/c God is merciful. Otherwise, I would have no hope of being there.

    In Christ,
    –Eric

  146. September 13, 2007 at 9:15 am

    that first abbr. should have been “b/w” – sorry for confusion.

  147. greenbaggins said,

    September 13, 2007 at 9:17 am

    If a person believes that he is not justified by faith alone, but works enters into the picture at any point, then he is not saved (Romans 3-4 excludes any and all kinds of works from justification). If a person believes that a mere human has the same authority as the Word of God (see the examples of false prophets in the OT, and the criteria for true and false prophets), then why would he believe the Scripture more than the Pope? And Mary is not the co-redemptrix with Jesus Christ. That makes effectively the fourth member of the Trinity. We do not offer prayers for the dead (Scripture says this, too). We have only one mediator between God and man, and that Mediator is Jesus Christ. He is our great High Priest. We pray directly to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We do not pray to them through Mary or any other “saint.” The Roman Catholic definition of saint is unbiblical. Paul consistently addresses *all* Christians as saints.

  148. September 13, 2007 at 9:27 am

    […] (original context) © 2004-2007 Eric F. Langborgh       […]

  149. Stewart said,

    September 13, 2007 at 9:38 am

    This is one of the best sermons on the Reformation I’ve ever heard.

    Dr. Greg Bahnsen – The Road to Rome: Was the Reformation Justified?

    http://www.wordmp3.com/search.asp?itemid=1497

  150. Bryan Cross said,

    September 13, 2007 at 9:40 am

    Stewart,

    That’s a reasonable question. The Catholic Church does not make any judgments about whether any particular person is in hell. To excommunicate a person is not identical to sending that person to hell. The Catholic Church commits such persons to the mercy and justice of God, and does not judge that they are, at death, sent to hell. It withholds that judgment. That is not to make light of excommunication, but rather to recognize the greatness of the mercy of God and the finality and evil of hell.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  151. Bryan Cross said,

    September 13, 2007 at 10:19 am

    Lane,

    Thanks for these.

    If a person believes that he is not justified by faith alone, but works enters into the picture at any point, then he is not saved (Romans 3-4 excludes any and all kinds of works from justification).

    Is faith an act of the will or not? And if is an act of the will, why is it not a work?

    If a person believes that a mere human has the same authority as the Word of God (see the examples of false prophets in the OT, and the criteria for true and false prophets), then why would he believe the Scripture more than the Pope?

    We believe that the authority that the Apostles had was derived from the authority that Christ has. Christ gave them His authority, just as the Father gave Christ authority. That does not mean that we believe that the Apostles are divine or equal to God. But the one who listens to the Apostles listens to Christ, and the one who rejects the Apostles rejects Christ (Luke 10:16), because the Apostles were given the authority to speak and act on behalf of Christ. Likewise, we believe that the Apostles gave their authority sacramentally (through the laying on of their hands) to those bishops whom they appointed and ordained. We don’t view Scripture and Magisterium as at odds with each other or competing for authority. They are both authoritative, in different ways. We subordinate our own interpretation of Scripture to that of the Magisterium.

    And Mary is not the co-redemptrix with Jesus Christ. That makes effectively the fourth member of the Trinity.

    I don’t see how that conclusion would follow. Just because someone participates in the saving of all men (Mary’s obedience to God was a means by which Christ was brought into the world, and therefore was a means by which salvation was brought to all men), it does not follow that that person is divine. Paul filled up what was lacking in Christ’s sufferings (Col 1:27), but that doesn’t make Paul divine.

    We do not offer prayers for the dead (Scripture says this, too).

    Where does it say not to offer prayers for the dead, or that those who do are going to hell? If you had retained the whole Bible, you would see it in II Machabees 12:40-46, and then Paul’s statement in 1 Cor 15:29 would make more sense. Paul’s statement regarding Onesiphorus (2 Tim 1:18) seems best explained as a prayer for a person who has already died.

    We have only one mediator between God and man, and that Mediator is Jesus Christ.

    Catholics believe this very same thing. When we ask someone to pray for us, we do not think that they impinge upon or detract from Christ’s unique mediation.

    We pray directly to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

    So do we.

    We do not pray to them through Mary or any other “saint.”

    Then either you never ask anyone to pray for you, or no one on earth is a “saint”.

    The Roman Catholic definition of saint is unbiblical. Paul consistently addresses *all* Christians as saints.

    The Catholic Church affirms that definition of saint. It holds an additional definition as well. By “unbiblical” I assume you mean “not found in Scripture”. But again, you are working in a “sola scriptura” paradigm, and the Catholic Church is not. But I do not find sola scriptura itself anywhere in Scripture.

    I simply do not see how one can move from any of these points of disagreement to the conclusion that Catholics are “twice over sons of hell”.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  152. September 13, 2007 at 11:06 am

    Bryan,

    Is faith an act of the will or not? And if is an act of the will, why is it not a work?

    Faith is a gift of God, lest anyone should boast. (Eph. 2:8-9)

    We do not pray to them through Mary or any other “saint.”

    Where in the Bible is it said that dead saints gain super-human, even divine, powers of semi-omniscience? What Scriptural warrant do you have for believing a dead saint a) has any knowledge of or about you, b) has the ability to hear you and c) will in fact hear you when you call upon him or her for intercession?

    Thank you,

    –Eric

  153. September 13, 2007 at 11:19 am

    Oh, one other thing I forgot:

    Likewise, we believe that the Apostles gave their authority sacramentally (through the laying on of their hands) to those bishops whom they appointed and ordained.

    If the successors clearly lack the ability to heal and perform other miracles that the Apostles had, if they lack the gift of infallible prophecy that the Apostles had, then on what basis do we assume that the authority passed on is of the same exalted nature as that possessed by the Apostles themselves? The church is built on the testimony of the Apostles, and Irenaeus wisely understood that apostolic authority meant that it is that testimony – the regula fide, e.g. – that carried forward, not necessarily the physical lineage of successors. When bishops/elders err, their authority is trumped by the Apostolic testimony. And we have that sufficiently in the Holy Scriptures, since Holy Writ is sufficient for salvation and every good work (2 Tim. 3:14-17)

    Thanks again,
    –Eric

  154. September 13, 2007 at 11:20 am

    odd – the first didn’;t post. Here it is again:

    Bryan,

    Is faith an act of the will or not? And if is an act of the will, why is it not a work?

    Faith is a gift of God, lest anyone should boast. (Eph. 2:8-9)

    We do not pray to them through Mary or any other “saint.”

    Where in the Bible is it said that dead saints gain super-human, even divine, powers of semi-omniscience? What Scriptural warrant do you have for believing a dead saint a) has any knowledge of or about you, b) has the ability to hear you and c) will in fact hear you when you call upon him or her for intercession?

    Thank you,

    –Eric

  155. September 13, 2007 at 11:21 am

    Rev. Keister,

    Apparantly, one of my comments got hung up in your moderation. I resubmitted it and ithat one did too. Please feel free to delete the duplicate.

    Thanks!

  156. Stewart said,

    September 13, 2007 at 11:42 am

    “Where does it say not to offer prayers for the dead, or that those who do are going to hell?”

    Deuteronomy 18

  157. Bryan Cross said,

    September 13, 2007 at 11:46 am

    Eric,

    If the successors clearly lack the ability to heal and perform other miracles that the Apostles had, if they lack the gift of infallible prophecy that the Apostles had, then on what basis do we assume that the authority passed on is of the same exalted nature as that possessed by the Apostles themselves?

    I don’t think I claimed that it was the “same exalted nature”. Nor did I “assume” that the bishops whom the Apostles ordained had magisterial authority. The authority of these bishops is clear both in Scripture and in the writings of the fathers. Regarding St. Irenaeus, he believed in *sacramental* succession from the fathers as the basis for determining what is the Apostolic testimony and whose interpretation of Scripture was in accord with it. I have argued that here. And Tertullian makes that clear here . The Scripture does not say that the Church is built on “the testimony of the Apostles”. It says rather that the Church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph 2:20). The apostles and prophets themselves are the foundation (laid on Christ Himself of course). (These prophets being referred to there are the NT prophets, as is clear in the Didache, 1 Cor 12:28, and other places.) And likewise, the sacramental successors of the Apostles are the rightful magisterial authorities. That is what the Church believed for 1500 years, and what the Catholic Church still believes. As Tertullian points out there, anyone can claim to be teaching the Apostles’ doctrine, but only those who are sent by the Apostles, or by those whom the Apostles sent, are authorized to say what is the Apostles’ doctrine. (See also my comments on Acts 15:24)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  158. Bryan Cross said,

    September 13, 2007 at 11:50 am

    Stewart,

    We don’t conjure or summon the dead. We do nothing more than what Jesus did during the Transfiguration when he talked with Moses and Elijah.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  159. greenbaggins said,

    September 13, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    Unfortunately, Eric, it is not in the moderator’s queue. WordPress is eating comments again. Please accept my sincere apologies, Eric.

  160. David Weiner said,

    September 13, 2007 at 12:49 pm

    Bryan,

    “We do nothing more than what Jesus did during the Transfiguration when he talked with Moses and Elijah.”

    I do enjoy how you stand up with competence and style and grace for your beliefs. I also agree that Deuteronomy 18 is not a strong retort to your position. On the other hand, saying that a mere mortal praying to a dead person is like what Jesus did at the transfiguration just seems so wrong on so many levels. Surely, that is not the foundation of this belief?

  161. kjulli said,

    September 13, 2007 at 12:57 pm

    Bryan,

    I don’t understand why you think that God would cast people who so deeply love Him into hell forever.

    They love a figment of Rome’s imagination, not Jesus the Christ of God. They are idolaters and will-worshippers, and hell is the only appropriate destination for any of them unless they repent and rest on Jesus Christ and His work alone for their salvation.

    Good day to you.

  162. September 13, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    Very odd – it only happens when I am at this computer. :/
    I’ll try again (and it it works, consider it above my #152 and in response to Bryan’s #151):

    Bryan,

    Is faith an act of the will or not? And if is an act of the will, why is it not a work?

    Faith is a gift of God, lest anyone should boast. (Eph. 2:8-9)

    We do not pray to them through Mary or any other “saint.”

    Where in the Bible is it said that dead saints gain super-human, even divine, powers of semi-omniscience? What Scriptural warrant do you have for believing a dead saint a) has any knowledge of or about you, b) has the ability to hear you and c) will in fact hear you when you call upon him or her for intercession?

    Thank you,

    –Eric

  163. September 13, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    Okay, I tried again, it didn’t work, and then again, and this time it told me that I had a duplicate post. Lord willing, it is now in there somewhere!

  164. greenbaggins said,

    September 13, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    Bryan, faith is a gift from God (Ephesians 2 proves this most clearly). Furthermore, that text is in the context of saying that God raised us from death to life when we become Christians. So death to life equals the gift of faith. It is not a work. Works flow from that faith, of course, as Paul says in Ephesians 2:10. However, the faith itself is a gift. The reason that it is not a work is that on our own we would never believe in Jesus. Romans 1-3 states this about fifty times. The will is in bondage under sin. We weren’t just sick, we weren’t just at death’s door. Ephesians 2 says we were *dead* in our sins and transgressions. Nothing less than resurrection of the will is required for faith to happen. That is called regeneration, when God works in the human heart, giving that person faith.

    If the authority of the Apostles directly goes to their successors, then why single out Peter at Rome? Who was Thomas’s successor? Who was John’s successor? What about James? What about Paul? It doesn’t matter that Peter was first among equals. Where are the equals today? Why hasn’t the church as carefully preserved the other apostolate successions as they have supposedly preserved Peter’s? Doesn’t it need to be a direct line of succession? If not, then where is the justification for saying that Rome needs to be preserved, but the others don’t?

    We don’t pray to Paul either. How come Mary gets more prayers than Paul does? By what Scriptural justification does Mary get more prayers than Peter?

    1 Corinthians 15:29 is talking about baptism, not prayer, first of all. Second of all, 2 Maccabees 12 is talking about praying on behalf of the dead “huper,” not to the dead. At the most the passage could justify praying for the dead, if it were Scripture. That whole question is settled by asking this question: why didn’t the Jews accept the Apocrypha as Scripture? The Apocrypha was written in the Old Testament time period (the inter-testamental period, to be precise). The Jews had control of the canon. Why didn’t they approve one single book of the apocrypha? And in 2 Timothy 1:16-18 there is no indication that Onesiphorus is dead when Paul is writing!

    Dead people do not pray for live people.

    On the question of saints, an unbiblical definition means that I am by no means bound to it. I believe quite firmly that the ones who will have the greatest rewards in heaven are those who are least noticed, not the most noticed (see Matthew 6).

  165. greenbaggins said,

    September 13, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    Arggh! It still isn’t there, Eric. I don’t know what to say. Maybe trying from a different computer?

  166. greenbaggins said,

    September 13, 2007 at 1:11 pm

    Okay, I found them. They were in the Akismet spam filter. I de-spammed them. Maybe it will work now. I got the comments you wrote back. So we haven’t lost anything. Whew!

  167. September 13, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    Bryan,

    Re: 155 – Read Irenaeus again. He points to physical succession because those who sat at the feet of those who sat at the feet of the Apostles were most likely to have retained their *teachings*, rather than the imposters. But the emphasis is clear on the content of what they taught, not a mere succession of hands. As Irenaeus wrote in his Against Heresies (book 3, 1, 1):

    “We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith.

    As this quote makes clear, the content of this tradition, this deposit of faith, is consistent with the content of Scripture ( “and, at a later period … handed down to us in the Scriptures”). Scripture, then, contains the sum of the knowledge we must have for faith, salvation, and good works unto the Lord (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

    So there it is again. It is noteworthy that you avoided this point the first time I brought it up, b/c it eviscerates the Roman Catholic claim of a parallel tradition to Scripture that our neglect of would cause us to be insufficiently equipped for salvation and every good work.

  168. September 13, 2007 at 1:16 pm

    Thank you, Rev. Keister!!!

  169. September 13, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    Clarification Re: my #167 – my reference to Bryan’s #155 should now be #157, due to my spammed comments finally showing up above.

  170. Sam Steinmann said,

    September 13, 2007 at 2:33 pm

    We don’t pray to Paul either. How come Mary gets more prayers than Paul does? By what Scriptural justification does Mary get more prayers than Peter?

    Pastor Keister,

    Can you explain what you are getting at here? I’m not seeing your point. If you pick two members of your congregation totally at random, one of them gets more requests to “pray for me” than the other.

    Doesn’t Rev 6: 9-10 imply that the dead have some knowledge of what’s going on on the earth.

    (Also, how did I end up arguing in favor of a praying to saints, which I neither do nor approve of?)

  171. greenbaggins said,

    September 13, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    Sam, my argument is a reductio ad absurdam. I am trying to show that if you take the Roman Catholic position to its logical conclusion, it isn’t consistent. Why don’t they pray equally to Peter and Paul as much as they pray to Mary?

    I don’t deny in any way that the dead in Christ have knowledge of what is happening on earth. That doesn’t mean that we ask them to pray for us.

    I had to laugh at your last comment. I have no answer. ;-)

  172. September 13, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    Dear Sam,

    I hope you don’t mind my butting in here. But re: Rev 6: 9-10 – all that says is that the martyrs know they were martyred, and who did it. At most, as far as I can tell, it implied that they can look in and see what their martyrs are doing “now,” but that is far from the semi-omniscience the RCC bequeaths to them, by logical consequence of its encouraging its members to pray to them, as I explained above.

  173. September 13, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    Sorry, my use of “their martyrs” on line three should have been their “murderers.”

  174. Bryan Cross said,

    September 13, 2007 at 6:08 pm

    Eric and Lane,

    You both responded to my statement: “If is an act of the will, why is it not a work?” by saying that faith is a gift of God. Of course I agree that faith is a gift of God. But that does not answer the question. Is faith an act of the will? Why do you think that an act of the will cannot also be a gift of God? And if you do think that an act of the will cannot also be a gift of God, how do you justify that monocausalism and avoid occasionalism?

    Where in the Bible is it said that dead saints gain super-human, even divine, powers of semi-omniscience? What Scriptural warrant do you have for believing a dead saint a) has any knowledge of or about you, b) has the ability to hear you and c) will in fact hear you when you call upon him or her for intercession?

    These questions assume the truth of sola scriptura, as though if something is not in the Bible then we have no good reason to believe it, or we have good reason not to believe it. But that presupposition itself is not in Scripture. And therefore, by its own standard it refutes itself, by implying that we have no good reason to believe or that we have good reason not to believe it. The Catholic Church has never held the notion that if something is not in Scripture then we have no good reason to believe it, or we have good reason not to believe it. The Catholic Church treasures the NT Scriptures, but never held that they were intended to be an exhaustive account of the Church’s doctrine and practice. The mysteries (i.e. the sacraments) were taught directly by practice, not in writing, to keep them hidden from unbelievers (since that which is holy should not be allowed to be cast before swine). The practice of praying for the dead, and of asking disembodied saints for their intercession are traditions that go back to the first century. And the Catholic Church has formally approved these practices.

    David,

    On the other hand, saying that a mere mortal praying to a dead person is like what Jesus did at the transfiguration just seems so wrong on so many levels. Surely, that is not the foundation of this belief?

    It is not the foundation of this belief. The foundation is that Christ defeated death, and that therefore disembodied saints are not removed from the Body of Christ, hence the “communion of the saints”. There is a real, but mystical communion between all the saints because we are all united in the mystical Body of Christ. Since physical death does not separate us from Christ, it therefore does not separate us from all those who are in Christ, including those who are embodied. The point I was making by referring to Jesus talking to Moses and Elijah at the Transfiguration is that it shows that in principle there is nothing contrary to the law in an embodied human being talking to a disembodied human soul. Otherwise, Jesus would have been breaking the law by talking to them. But Jesus did not break any laws. Ergo, there is nothing contrary to the law in an embodied human being talking to a disembodied human soul.

    Kyle,

    They love a figment of Rome’s imagination, not Jesus the Christ of God. They are idolaters and will-worshippers, and hell is the only appropriate destination for any of them unless they repent and rest on Jesus Christ and His work alone for their salvation. Good day to you.

    There are 1.1 billion Catholics. We are not just abstractions; we are real, human persons, with families and children. And you seem to be so casually and flippantly consigning us all to hell, with complete indifference. Of course it is hard to read a person’s tone and feelings by e-mail. But I’m getting the impression that you don’t really care that 1.1 billion of your fellow human beings are going to hell, including me. You don’t seem to be at all interested in leading me out of my hell-bound state, let alone considering the possibility that Catholics are not ipso facto hell-bound. Is your indifference because you think I’m predestined to go to hell? Since faith is gift of God, and, since in your view, I don’t have faith, then, in your view, there is nothing you can do but watch me slide into hell, with a wave of your hand and a “Good day to you”? At what point in a theology’s disposition to lead its adherents to behave in this cold love-less manner does the theology refute itself? I consider you a brother in Christ, and I hope that you will reconsider your position over time.

    Lane,

    If the authority of the Apostles directly goes to their successors, then why single out Peter at Rome?

    Because Jesus gave the primacy to Peter, as seen in Matt 16.

    Why hasn’t the church as carefully preserved the other apostolate successions as they have supposedly preserved Peter’s?

    Those apostolic successions have been preserved in the apostolic Churches, though some of the apostolic Churches eventually ceased to exist (e.g. Ephesus, Corinth, etc.) But the Orthodox Churches have preserved genuine apostolic succession.

    The succession of bishops from Peter in Rome can be seen here. The succession of Patriarchs from Mark in Alexandria can be seen here. The succession of bishops in Antioch can be seen here, and the succession of bishops in Jerusalem going back to the first bishop of Jerusalem (James the Righteous) can be seen here.

    We don’t pray to Paul either. How come Mary gets more prayers than Paul does? By what Scriptural justification does Mary get more prayers than Peter?

    Catholics and Orthodox do ask St. Paul to pray for us. The Blessed Mother probably receives more prayer requests because she is the “Mother of God”. St. Paul does not have that title and that honor. :-)

    1 Corinthians 15:29 is talking about baptism, not prayer, first of all.

    Catholics have a broader conception of baptism. We believe, for example, in such a thing as a baptism of blood. Jesus referred to this in Mark 10:38 and Luke 12:50. St. Francis de Sales writes:

    “This passage [1 Cor 15:29] properly understood evidently shows that it was the custom of the primitive Church to watch, pray, fast, for the souls of the departed. For, firstly, in the Scriptures to be baptized is often taken for afflictions and penances; as in St. Luke chapter 12 [12:50] . . . and in St. Mark chapter 10 [10:38-39] . . . in which places our Lord calls pains and afflictions baptism [cf. Matt. 3:11, 20:22-3; Luke 3:16]. This, then, is the sense of that Scripture: if the dead rise not again, what is the use of mortifying and afflicting oneself, of praying and fasting for the dead? And indeed this sentence of St. Paul resembles that of 2 Maccabees 12:44: ‘It is superfluous and vain to pray for the dead if the dead rise not again.'”

    That whole question is settled by asking this question: why didn’t the Jews accept the Apocrypha as Scripture?

    That’s like saying: The whole question regarding whether the NT is Scripture is settled by asking this question: why didn’t the Jews accept the NT as Scripture? The non-Christian Jews were not the ones appointed by Christ to lead and govern the Church. The Christians, not those who rejected Christ, are the ones who get to tell the Church what is and isn’t Scripture.

    Dead people do not pray for live people.

    Luke 16:27-28 shows otherwise, and that guy was in Hades. How much more do the righteous saints in heaven intercede for us? Besides, Jesus tells us, regarding Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living (Matt 22, Mark 12, Luke 20). And Hebrews 12 tells us that these OT saints are a great cloud of witnesses presently surrounding us. So the people we believe are praying for us are not dead, but alive. And this is shown also in 2 Maccabees 15:13-14, where the prophet Jeremiah is shown in heaven “praying for his people and their holy city”.

    Eric,

    Read Irenaeus again. He points to physical succession because those who sat at the feet of those who sat at the feet of the Apostles were most likely to have retained their *teachings*, rather than the imposters.

    Ultimately it has nothing to do with “most likely” or likelihood or probability, nor will you find that notion in the fathers. It has to do with authority. Who has the authority to say what is the Apostles’ doctrine? Those to whom the Apostles entrusted it, who were ordained by the Apostles, and subsequently those ordained by them, and so on. If St. Irenaeus were making a likelihood argument, the heretics could easily have refuted it with an “ad fontes” reply. That is precisely why St. Irenaeus so strongly emphasizes sacramental succession from the apostles. And that is exactly why Tertullian made sacramental authority the preliminary question before disputing about the interpretation of Scripture.

    As this quote makes clear, the content of this tradition, this deposit of faith, is consistent with the content of Scripture ( “and, at a later period … handed down to us in the Scriptures”). Scripture, then, contains the sum of the knowledge we must have for faith, salvation, and good works unto the Lord

    Your second sentence does not follow from the first. Nor is your second sentence an accurate paraphrase of 2 Tim 3:16, which does not say anything about how adequate or sufficient Scripture (or Scripture alone) is for the task of making a man adequate and equipped for every good work. St. Irenaeus here is not saying that the Scripture contains the entirety of the Apostolic deposit of faith. Nor is he denying the unwritten apostolic tradition, which was in part the Church’s interpretation of the Scriptures. St. Basil said,

    “Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church, some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us ‘ in a mystery’ by the tradition of the Apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will contradict; — no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. … Which of the saints has left us in writing the words of the invocation at the displaying of the bread of the Eucharist and the cup of blessing? For we are not, as is well known, content with what the apostle or the Gospel has recorded, but both in preface and conclusion we add other words as being of great importance to the validity of the ministry, and these we derive from unwritten teaching. Moreover we bless the water of baptism and the oil of the chrism, and besides this the Catechumen who is being baptized. On what written authority do we do this? Is not our authority silent and mystical tradition? Nay, by what written word is the anointing of oil itself taught? And whence comes the custom of baptizing thrice? And as to the other customs of baptism from what Scripture do we derive the renunciation of Satan and his angels? Does not this come from that unpublished and secret teaching which our fathers guarded in a silence out of the reach of curious meddling and inquisitive investigation? … In the same manner the Apostles and fathers who laid down laws for the Church from the beginning thus guarded the awful dignity of the mysteries [i.e. the sacraments] in secrecy and silence, for what is bruited abroad at random among the common folk is not mystery at all.”

    (Interestingly enough, all the things St. Basil mentions here are still retained today in the Catholic Church.)

    And St. John Chrysostom writes:

    “So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word, or by Epistle of ours.” (2 Th. 2:15). Hence it is manifest, that they did not deliver all things by Epistle, but many things also unwritten, and in like manner both the one and the other are worthy of credit [i.e. belief]. Therefore let us think the tradition of the Church also worthy of credit [i.e. belief].”

    Another part of the tradition has to do with which NT books were apostolic and canonical. That knowledge is not itself contained in the NT itself.

    My point in all this was not to get into the details of Catholic-Protestant disagreements (though I don’t mind doing so). My point was to show that these disagreements are not such as to warrant the conclusion that Catholics (as such) are all “twice over sons of hell”.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  175. Don Hogan said,

    September 14, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    Hi Lane,

    I want to thank you for this post. I’m late to this but I had read previous threads where some really vicious comments were made about Wilson and others and it turned my stomach. I appreciate your blog and your contribution to Pastor Wilson’s blog.

  176. Kyle said,

    September 24, 2007 at 8:39 pm

    Byran, re: 174,

    How did I miss this?

    There are 1.1 billion Catholics. We are not just abstractions; we are real, human persons, with families and children. And you seem to be so casually and flippantly consigning us all to hell, with complete indifference. . . . I’m getting the impression that you don’t really care that 1.1 billion of your fellow human beings are going to hell, including me. You don’t seem to be at all interested in leading me out of my hell-bound state, let alone considering the possibility that Catholics are not ipso facto hell-bound.

    Your responses to me have been about feelings from the beginning, and not about truth. You were offended by my suggestion that you, as a faithful child of Rome, are a son of hell (how crude and intolerant, I know). Now you are going to turn it around and make it a matter of my cruel, unfeeling heart, if I do not pursue you with every last ounce of my strength to save you from the pit. My, arguments from mere feeling are foolish things! If I seem indifferent it is because I am not interested in placating your feelings, either by making you feel loved by considering you a Christian brother, or making you feel loved by being desperate to save you from the fire (although you know quite well you would have no intention of taking my attempt to do so seriously; you are quite convinced of the teachings of Rome).

    No, I am not interested in your vain feelings. I am interested in the truth. And the truth is, you have quite evidently been well-exposed to the true Christian faith, Reformed according to Scripture alone. You are not ignorant; you are without excuse. So, instead of pursuing the myriad rabbit trails that make up the adulteries of Rome, I have pointed you plainly and simply to Scripture, which contains the words that proceed from the mouth of God.

    As to predestination (that horrible decree!), I have no way of knowing whether you are reprobate, nor any of the other 1.1 billion Roman Catholics, unless you all die in your current state of thralldom to Rome (as my paternal grandparents did). If God shall save you, He shall do so by the Spirit speaking in His word. Therefore, I commend to you the reading of Scripture, and your reliance on Scripture for all matters of faith and practice, rather than reliance on the Roman Magisterium; and in them, if God open your eyes, you shall find the gospel of life through repentance from dead works to a living faith in the living Christ, Whose work alone is sufficient for your salvation.

    That, sir, is the Word of Truth.

    God have mercy! Christ have mercy! There is no hope unless the Spirit imparts life.

  177. August 17, 2008 at 10:38 am

    […] will now add the comment I attempted to submit at Green Baggins. I am posting this here on my blog because WordPress wouldn’t let me post it at Green Baggins […]


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